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You Can Call Me Bill movie review (2024)

Circular and repetitive at times, Shatner nonetheless expresses himself with all the self-effacing honesty of a troubadour. Sure, his ramblings wander aimlessly in moments, particularly when musing on spirituality and philosophy. He’ll lope from reflections on his childhood, a youth marred with deceased pets and an emotionally unavailable mother, to quoting Chekov’s “The Seagull” when musing on mourning for one’s life. His love of nature allows him to float through thoughts on horses, seals, lizards, and redwood trees—all small miracles he sees mankind squandering through pollution and our own short-sightedness.

But he delivers it all with such zealous, quiet conviction, in that signature staccato cadence (which he insists he doesn’t hear, especially in pop culture’s many impressions of him), that it remains innately compelling. Shatner himself may not be able to define “Shatnerian,” but it’s all laid bare in front of Phillippe’s cameras, so effortlessly that it might as well be invisible. 

At the ripe age of ninety, Shatner remains as alive as ever—his eyes wild with curiosity and humor, his honeyed voice barely worn down by years of voiceover and soliloquy. But he remains deeply aware of his own numbered days, which makes “You Can Call Me Bill” feel like something of a self-administered cinematic eulogy. He’s clearly grappling with the finality and impermanence of it all, whether here or in live events that see him entertaining audiences with poetic thoughts on the end of his life or the vastness of the universe. He talks about his highest of highs (reaching outer space) and his lowest of lows (being so broke after “Star Trek” was canceled that he couldn’t cash a check, even as men walked on the moon of the back of his show’s cultivation of interstellar curiosity). 

Philippe, as he often does, just sits back and lets his subject have the room. His only interjection comes halfway through, when he tells Bill, “I hope you’ll come back tomorrow.” Indeed, “You Can Call Me Bill” makes a strong case for keeping our Captain Kirk around for a long time.

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