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I am Celine Dion documentary review: Her voice will NOT go on and on

Celine Dion opens up about her struggle with the debilitating Stiff-person syndrome and what it's done to her and what she loves most - music

3.5/5rating
I am Celine Dion documentary review: Her voice will NOT go on and on
Celine Dion opens up about her struggle with Stiff person syndrome in new documentary

Last Updated: 07.18 PM, Jun 26, 2024

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I am Celine Dion story: In 2021, singer Celine Dion cancelled her Las Vegas concert residency, after years of struggling with a condition that began with odd symptoms of pitch and tone variations in her voice, to spasms and finally, leaving her unable to function. In this documentary, Celine opens up on her diagnosis with Stiff-person syndrome and what it’s done to her.

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I Am Celine Dion review: When your voice is your whole life and you are then stripped of it, nothing can be more painful. Tragically, for the Queen of Ballads, Celine Dion, that’s been her reality since being diagnosed with Stiff-person syndrome, a rare condition that attacks the nervous system, causing severe muscular spasms.

In 2021, Celine had to cancel her Las Vegas concert residency, in a bid to take time to rehabilitate, although an official public announcement about what was really going on with her came out much later in 2022. Stiff-person syndrome had taken Celine to a point at which she could not walk, was losing balance, experiencing excruciating pain and, could not use her voice. When she breathes, she explains, her lungs were fine, but the muscles around would constrict and tighten up, making it impossible to do what she loves the most – sing.

It’s not that the condition appeared almost overnight and overwhelmed her. No… Celine had been struggling with symptoms for nearly two decades, with early signs like voice spasming and cracking. Those were scary times, when she didn’t know what to do. The show, though, had to go on, so, she’d soldier on, getting audiences to sings bits when she was struggling, faking mic issues and more. Over the years, it also meant that she was on very high doses of medicine, just to be able to function.

Celine Dion offers a mini tour of the warehouse/museum of every costume she ever wore on stage or other public event
Celine Dion offers a mini tour of the warehouse/museum of every costume she ever wore on stage or other public event

But then, there came a point when she could do it no longer. The lies had got to stop and she had to really take care of herself. Celine’s got an expert team, including a sports medicine practitioner, guiding her through her rehabilitation and she’s made some progress.

Celine’s dream was to be an international star and to be able to sing all her life. Well, that part about being a global superstar came true and how, but whether or not she’ll be able to sing forever remains a question. In the time since her diagnosis, Celine has recorded some new music, for the film Love Again, her voice is not what it used to be, which is hard not only for those who’ve grown up on her music, but also for her. It’s taken her a lot of effort to get those songs out and there were versions that were tough even for her to hear.

The multiple Grammy winning artiste is hopeful of a triumphant return to music, the stage, the people – all of which she misses terribly. But the absolute tragedy of her condition is that it may just remain wishful thinking. Her condition is triggered by emotional responses and other external stimuli, like bright lights, noise, etc., which is all part of being a performing artiste. There’s a particularly heartbreaking sequence in the documentary, when Celine has a bad episode, seizing and in inexplicable pain and her team just short of calling 911. Her therapist explains that her nervous system had just been in overdrive, possibly triggered by a music session. “If I can’t get stimulated by what I love, and go on stage, are you going to put a pulse oximeter on me and turn me on my back?,” she asks as she comes through. “This is not the end of the journey,” she is reassured.

I Am Celine Dion documentary verdict: I Am Celine Dion is a particularly hard watch if you’ve grown up with Celine’s music and your knowledge of her discography goes way beyond the hit track from Titanic. Every time she gets teary-eyed or stifles a sniffle, you feel for her and what she’s lost, hoping against hope she’ll bounce back.

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