Narrated by Martin Sheen, this cradle-to-grave look at the brilliant, all-too-short working career of James Dean, who starred in just three feature films (“East of Eden,” “Rebel Without a Cause,” and “Giant”), reminds us what a raw talent the boyishly handsome Indiana-bred actor had, and why it resonated with so many moviegoers. Trailing the icon back and forth from Hollywood to New York, we glimpse some of Dean’s earliest work on stage and television, as well as on and off the set of the movies that would make him famous.
This invaluable documentary gives Dean fans of any age exactly what they crave: tons of rare footage, from his earliest professional acting stint (a Pepsi commercial!) to his bold turns on live TV soundstages, starring opposite Jessica Tandy, Ed Begley, Natalie Wood, and others. Dean had a way of seizing a role and making it his own; a soulful fire that lit up the eyes of directors Elia Kazan, Nicholas Ray, and George Stevens. Though Sheridan's film is perfunctorily arranged in a timeline, we learn a great deal about Dean's intense personal life — his loves, his friendships, his evident talent for photography, and his tragic attachment to racing Porsches. "Forever Young" is a fond tribute to a creative actor whose white-hot star fell far too abruptly.