The documentary “Introducing, Selma Blair” presents an invigorating version of an often too artificial event: a performer navigating the process of reinvention. Actress Selma Blair changed involuntarily when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease, a disease that attacks the central nervous system, in August 2018. She went public with her illness with an Instagram post in October of the same year.
Blair’s initial announcement was candid, detailing the initial apathy she had felt from medical professionals, and she generously thanked friends – some famous and some not – who encouraged her to ask for help. At the time, Blair, now 49, was best known for her supporting roles in many of the most accessible and entertaining Hollywood films of the past 20 years. This familiarity lent his remarkably candid post the quality of reading an update from an old friend.
Its decisions following its public announcement remained consistent with this first surge of sincerity. Blair continued to publicly document his illness on Instagram. She frequented the red carpets with a jeweled cane. She offered interviews, allowing reporters to show her disturbances of speech and movement. She was by turns glamorous and awkward, funny and sad.
The documentary “Introducing, Selma Blair” expands the existing recording of Blair’s life into a cohesive and lengthy narrative. The film begins in 2019, after the initial cycle of media attention has passed. Director Rachel Fleit follows Blair home for over a year, her camera staring at her in truth style as the actress contemplates the aftermath of her diagnosis and plans her life with a disability..
At the start of filming in 2019, Blair was preparing for an experimental medical treatment that would combine chemotherapy and stem cell transplants to repair his immune system. When the procedures begin, the film follows her to the hospital, incorporating video diaries of Blair recovering.
The film’s greatest asset is its ability to simulate the intimacy of disclosure, and Blair’s comfort with the camera – her acting willingness to entertain – makes her a particularly endearing subject. The frankness which has become the signature of his public figure is fully exposed; she treats the camera as if it were a trusted friend.
In some of the film’s most touching sequences, Blair lets the filmmakers watch her perform with her son, his jerky movements both part of the fun and a testament to his physical condition. When he’s out of sight, she shares her concerns about how his visible vulnerability might affect her child. She jokes, she cries, she cries out in pain.
The film does not touch on all aspects of Blair’s life. There is little discussion of her career and no mention of how she afforded the extravagant house and the medical treatments that relieved her during the worst days of her illness. What this human interest story offers instead is a simple and likable portrayal of a captivating character. Oddly enough, career supporting actress Selma Blair never seemed to be such a star.
Introducing Selma Blair
Unclassified. Duration: 1 hour 35 minutes. In theaters. Also available on Discovery + starting October 21.