Five years on, the death of Paul Walker remains just as tragic. Not because the 40-year-old actor was killed with his creative potential left unfulfilled, but because The Fast and the Furious star seemed to have lead a life constantly searching for a way to follow his passion.
In the final scenes of posthumous profile documentary, I Am Paul Walker, Walker’s family and friends grieve not for his death, but for the life that he had been unable to lead. After years of providing for his college age daughter Meadow, and a raft of either expectant or struggling loved-ones, by 2013 Walker appeared primed to step away from the illusive LA life and retire, pursuing interests in marine biology and philanthropy. Of course, such a lifestyle could not follow. Walker died in a now infamous, and horribly ironic car accident, in November of that year.
The outpouring of grief that followed Walker’s death signified not just the fandom of the franchise, of which he had co-lead since its inception in 2001, but the often undervalued sincerity of the high-power, albeit low-profile, Hollywood star. In I Am Paul Walker, documentarian Adrian Buitenhuis, seeks to expose the elements of Walker’s personality that were oft neglected by mainstream eulogies. Comparative to Buitenhuis’ 2017 obituary to Australian heartthrob come Oscar winner, Heath Ledger, the documentary is an eerie, and saddening profile of a light that too rapidly consumed the wick.
Relying on family recounts and home video footage of Walker dating from birth, I Am Paul Walker, tracks the almost too-easy and erratic rise of Walker to stardom. A blue-collar upbringing in the Californian suburbs, Walker’s family recall how the cute kid naturally evolved into a performer. Balancing moments of jovial recollection, with the depressed benefit of hindsight, Walker’s brothers, sister and mum lament how Walker became unwittingly thrust into a career under the spotlight.
Speeding through discussing an adolescence fuelled by anger, with fighting and irresponsible spending as an outlet, I Am Paul Walker chugs quickly to revealing the awkward interplay that Walker faced with a profile on the rise. Following the birth of his daughter to childhood sweetheart Rebecca, Walker became frustrated with his inability to be a present “superdad”, in spite of the financial benefits gleaned from his career.
Although Walker’s filmography, benchmarked by the ongoing The Fast and Furious franchise and mid-level romantic-comedies and action flicks, lacks critical gravitas, Buitenhuis and Walker’s loved ones work hard to give an insight into what drove the man made famous for driving. The biography details Walker’s scientific escapades with tagging great white sharks, establishing the Reach Out Worldwide humanitarian foundation to help victims of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, and his undying love of his daughter Meadow.
Needless to say, for fans of Walker none of these un-A-list like qualities will come as a surprise. However, the in depth exploration of each only make Walker’s death sadder for novice watchers.
Neglecting any counter representations of Walker’s likeable and giving character, I Am Paul Walker strays away from being a revolutionary crafted documentary, and at times verges on moments of grief porn. Nonetheless, Buitenhuis balances such feelings with a ethos and reminder best summarised by Walker himself. As one of Walker’s friends recalls the star saying: “I got money. I don’t got time.”