Documentary Release: Only the Good Die Young - I Am Paul Walker (2018) - Reviewed

Burning bright and dying young is possibly Hollywood's most prevalent trope. Tragically, this trope is one that's impact has been felt outside of sound stage and studio walls; it has bled off the screen, ending the lives of countless young performers, so many, too many to mention them all by name, gone long before their time. With the I Am... series, director Adrian Buitenhuis has taken to showcasing some of the most well known victims of Hollywood's curse. After covering screen legends such as Heath Ledger and Sam Kinison, next up to be eulogized is Fast and Furious star, Paul Walker. 

Consisting almost entirely of interviews with Walker's immediate family and inner circle of friends paired with home movie footage from Walker's childhood and adolescence, it is very clear that those closest to Paul loved him deeply. There is no shortage of heart warming anecdotes in I Am Paul Walker, "to know him was to love him" is a running theme. Walker's quiet charitable efforts are a prime focus in the film. During his life, Walker spent much of his time between film shoots working with organizations promoting preservation of sea life and oceans or traveling to devastated countries to assist in relief. There's a very telling outtake from the filming of a PSA for an organization Walker established and was running where it becomes clear that while Walker was more than happy to use his fame to spread awareness to his causes, he didn't think it was important for anyone to know that it was his charity. By all accounts, Walker truly wanted to use his fame to shed light on issues near and dear to him, and was not interested in accolades for doing so. 

Another running theme of I Am Paul Walker is Walker's reluctance to embrace Hollywood the way Hollywood embraced him. Most famous actors chase their dream, beat down doors, beg, and steal to get into the business, and this is just not true with Walker. Completely resistant to fame and the Hollywood lifestyle, Walker was pursued by the business, not the other way around. Never taken in by the glitz and glamour, Walker even contemplated leaving the big screen behind to become a marine biologist, only dissuaded when a confidant assured him that he could do more to help ocean life with his fame than he could with a degree. 

Noticeably missing from this film, however, is any frank talk about Walker's daredevil streak, and any input from his daughter and her mother on his life. While it's understandable that the Walker family would want this film to be a tribute to their loved one, the viewer definitely comes away feeling like a very big, very important piece was missing. Walker is repeatedly shown doing extremely dangerous, death defying activities, and everyone just kind of writes it off as Walker living every minute to the fullest. However, considering that his untimely and tragic death occurred while participating in one of these activities, this feels false. The absence of his daughter Meadow, or her mother, Rebecca Soteros, among the family and friends interviews leads the viewer's mind to wonder about their thoughts and feelings on the situation. Of course, neither of them can be faulted if they chose not to participate, but their presence would have done a lot to flesh the full story out. 

I Am Paul Walker is not a hard hitting documentary. It doesn't break down doors or uncover hidden truths, but it is a beautiful tribute to an understated man who, if nothing else can be said about him, was deeply, truly loved by his family and those closest to him. Walker's biggest fans will not be disappointed, though those looking for something more than a eulogy may feel a bit let down.

--Josie Stec