The New Christopher Reeve docu shows how he grappled with the aftermath of his accident

Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui’s film, premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, makes it clear that Christopher’s comeback came at a tremendous price.
Christopher Reeve
Christopher Reeve

Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui’s new documentary, Super/Man picks up a very different version of Christopher Reeve’s journey.

The documentary picks off when Christopher is now paralysed from the neck down after a fall from his horse. He cannot move, he cannot soar. His wife, Dana, tends to him and then talks of seeking out towels fresh from the dryer so she can get some of the warmth that she no longer can receive from her husband, reports a media source.

The couple’s young son, Will, celebrates his third birthday party at his father’s hospital. Remarkably, less than a year later, Christopher is on stage at the Oscars receiving a standing ovation.

As per the source he teaches Will how to ride his bike, moving along with him and offering encouragement from his motorised wheelchair.

In a way, Reeve became a superhero again. Ian and Peter’s film, premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, makes it clear that Christopher’s comeback came at a tremendous price.

“His morning routine from waking up to being able to roll out the door was about two hours,” Will Reeve told the source with his siblings Matthew and Alexandra. “We’d all wake up every morning and think anything could happen. But he would wake up and then remember all over again that he couldn’t move.”

Before his accident, Reeve wasn’t unkind, but he did his own thing. (In the film, Matthew notes his dad left to ski in France the day after he was born.) The actor had a cold poet father who didn’t approve of his movies and — legend has it — bought him Champagne mistakenly thinking he had been cast not as the superhero but in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman.

Reeve showed his love for his kids by taking them skiing and schussing to the bottom ahead of them. All that changed after his accident. “Our love language was activity before (sic),” Alexandra said. “Suddenly, you’re spending time just hanging out in Dad’s office looking each other in the eye and talking for two hours.”

Neither Christopher’s children nor the filmmakers shy away from the fact that Reeve’s accident made him a better man.

“I think he was very conscious of that irony and the legacy of Superman when people viewed his story and thought about him after the accident,” said Alexandra. “He talked about redefining what it is to be a hero… it’s an everyday person who survives despite overwhelming obstacles.”

Reeve didn’t just thrive; he became a mensch. He created, with Dana, a foundation that has raised hundreds of millions for research. And it wasn’t done alone — the documentary makes it clear that Reeve had financial resources available that others do not, but stresses it was his blended family of Dana, his ex-partner Gae and his three children.

“Things came easily to him early in his life,” Bonhote said. “Then, as Christopher said, ‘The one minority anyone can become part of in an instant, is a disability.’ I think that there was a genuine opening to the world around him on a different level. It would be facile to say, ‘Oh, this is a triumph over adversity story,’ but it is turning adversity into opportunity.”

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