Michael J. Fox doesn’t let Parkinson’s Disease slow him down one bit in Davis Guggenheim’s Apple documentary Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie. Actually, slowing down is one of his biggest challenges.
“You get to a place, I said at the end of the last book I wrote, that with gratitude, optimism is sustainable. And that’s the way I feel in my life,” Fox said at the premiere of Still at Sundance on Friday.
With endearing voice-over narration, Still finds Michael J. Fox walking the audience through his incredible life, from his childhood growing up in Canada as the smallest kid in his class, to moving to Hollywood with big dreams and experiencing moments of poverty before getting his big break on Family Ties, and soon after, Back to the Future.
He also explains how everything nearly came crashing down on him when he woke up one morning in 1990 to discover the first Parkinsonian tremor in his pinky finger at the age of 29. Guggenheim’s documentary follows Fox as he journeys from denial about his condition to masking his tremors on set, developing a drinking problem, and then overcoming it with 30 years of sobriety — all in the span of 95 minutes.
Still also documents what a day in Fox’s life looks like as a 61-year-old working with a trainer to stay in control of his Parkinson’s. He often practices slowing down his movements in order to minimize injuries from falling, which happens often due to the nature of his illness. But slowing down doesn’t come easy to Fox, who prefers to live life constantly moving forward.
“I got to a point recently with all these injuries… not too grim, but I certainly was disappointed in the way things have been going. And I thought, I’m ready. I’m 61 years old. I’ve got to sit down with myself and have a conversation,” Fox told the crowd. “I can be 61 and live to 92 and have a great life… or I can just say I’m just gonna keep getting sicker until I don’t try to hurt myself, but don’t try to not hurt myself, and just let it go down this path. But I don’t want to do that.”
For Fox, the most moving part of the documentary, and indeed his life story, is the bond he has with his family: his wife, Tracy, and their kids Sam, Aquinnah, Esmé, and Schuyler.
“I was this guy who couldn’t get a date in high school and wore beer shirts ’cause I thought they were cool. But having said that, when I look at the film, the thing that screams at me… is the stuff with my family. It’s such joy,” Fox said. “I love my life, I love my family, I love what I do. I love that people react to what I do. I love that I can be an example to other people and help them deal with their issues without them asking me, without me forcing myself on them. It’s an amazing fucking life. And I’m enjoying it.”
Main Image: Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.