'I Am: Celine Dion' Reveals Both Frailty and Force

Directed by Irene Taylor

Starring Céline Dion

Photo courtesy of Prime Video

BY Rachel HoPublished Jun 20, 2024


Like most millennial Canadians, I grew up listening to Céline Dion. It was hard not to. Even before her heart went on and on, Dion's voice was a mainstay on the radio and one of the few CDs my parents purchased. In many ways I took Dion's talent for granted — her magnetic voice has always existed in my life, and that's the way it's always been.

But for as much of a constant as she was in my childhood, if you asked me to, I don't think I could offer much by way of who she is as a person. Beyond being from a large French Canadian family, a child prodigy who married her manager and mentor, and one of the most powerful voices of our time, Dion has simply existed in the Canadian cultural zeitgeist.

Although Dion has granted many interviews over her career, I Am: Celine Dion peels back the curtain on one of the greatest vocalists in a way that truly feels raw and authentic, something we haven't seen from the singer previously. Her two youngest children, twins Eddy and Nelson, feature heavily in the film, and through them we see Dion as a mother of teenagers reminding them to take their retainer to school. We also see her humorous side, like in her two-minute soliloquy waxing lyrical about how nothing can come between a woman and her shoes — a speech that made me want to run through a brick wall with the most ill-fitting heels I own.

Above everything though, director Irene Taylor reminds us what a unique force Dion was and is. Clips of her performing through the years, as a teenager in Quebec right up to her most recent residency in Las Vegas, showcase her powerful vocals hitting the ear drums and the soul with her animated physicality in tow. Coupled with this talent is a perfectionist's determination — something exemplified in her directing a fun 30-second video with her boys where she tells her son to get back into position. When she asks her physical trainer whether her movement during an exercise is "good" or just "better," it's clear that the reason for Dion's success hasn't just been her vocals.

However, with all these moments comes an underlying sense of sadness. We're all too aware as an audience that the main reason for this film comes from Dion's diagnosis with a rare neurological disease, stiff-person syndrome, which she made public two years ago. As we watch Dion discuss the illness, go through physical therapy, and even experience terrifying episodes of severe muscle spasms, those clips of her running around on stage and freely moving about with the music hit a more poignant note than a simple retrospective on an artist's impressive career.

Often, celebrity profiles driven by the subject render less-than-stellar results — the footage is too sanitized, the narrative a tad too skewed. But in this case, Dion's insistence that no other voices be heard in the film gives her the opportunity to explain her absence these last few years directly to her fans in the manner she wishes.

Fan of Dion's or not, the film is a force. It's far from being a piece of fan service or even a plea for sympathy; it's a reminder that, for as large as Dion has loomed these last few decades and as pervasive her presence, she's a woman and a mother whose fate dealt her an unfortunate hand — one that she faces with humour, grace and dignity.

(Prime Video)

Latest Coverage