Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet is a film about a man on the verge of greatness, and the illness that tried—but failed—to snatch his life away.
At just 20, guitar prodigy Jason Becker, hailing from small town California, was chosen to be Steve Vai’s successor in Van Halen—then the biggest cock-rock band in America. After one short album, Becker was diagnosed with ALS, a degenerative condition similar to motor-neuron disease. He tried to tour, but within weeks didn’t have the strength to hold his guitar. Despite only being able to move his eyes, he has continued to make and release records.
This is a remarkable human story, and a powerful affirmation of family, community and a willingness to not get beat, but the film is grounded by constructed direction reliant on the staid combo of talking-head and home-video filler.
One montage alone—of an open road through the window of American car, the tracking down of a distant horizon—really evokes the imagination of the pioneering young musician going out on his first tour, cut together with the realities of disability. It’s a tribute to a man that stays fighting, if not standing, but not quite brave enough to envisage what might have been.