In New Orleans, Steve Gleason was, is and will always be a Saint. They even erected a statue to him outside the SuperDome, where the former NFL safety famously parted the waters of despair in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. By laying hands on a punted football, he helped his team score a touchdown, but for a beaten-down community, it was an apt metaphor for a city’s fight to retain its undying spirit.

That was in 2006, in the Saints’ first game back in the dome following the tempest 13 months earlier. The blocked kick stood to be the special-teams dynamo’s 15 seconds of national-TV fame, but hardly his most searing accomplishment, as evidenced in “Gleason,” his deeply moving video diary of his months-long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

Diagnosed just three years after hanging up his cleats in 2008, the amateur filmmaker decided to turn the camera on himself to capture his steady decline from super-fit athlete to wheelchair-bound invalid. But just six weeks in, his resilient wife, artist Michel Varisco, learned she was pregnant with their first child, Rivers. Suddenly, the focus shifts from a chronicle of Steve’s steady loss of motor function to a unique opportunity to relay his views on life and fatherhood to his unborn son before being robbed of his ability to speak. Even more, it’s a chance to film his attempts to make peace with his own dad, Mike, with whom he’d always had issues.

The resulting footage is nothing short of extraordinary, as Steve Gleason holds nothing back, not even the obvious strain his illness puts on his marriage. And unlike a lot of recent true stories, like the overrated “Life, Animated,” everything about “Gleason” feels utterly real. So much so, at times you sense it’s getting too intimate. But even then, you’re too emotionally invested in this man, this family, to dare look away.

As Gleason’s pals Mike McCready and Eddie Vedder would say, observing such unflinching bravery makes you want to be a better man. And Steve is the gold standard, always thinking of others even in his deepest anguish, advocating through his Team Gleason for people unlike him who don’t have the money to get the help and equipment they need to speak and move about.

His most prosperous gift, though, is the positive attitude he displays throughout, which can’t help but give strength and inspiration to other young men and women cut down in their prime by any of a dozen debilitating diseases.

Forget “Rudy.” From now on, when coaches want to fire their teams up before a big game, they’ll no doubt show them “Gleason,” which is so powerful it could make an alleged “black heart” like Donald Trump weep. And the source of those tears isn’t so much Gleason’s faith and determination, as it is the truths his film speaks about fathers and sons. They may not always get along or see eye to eye, but there’s no more special bond. Just ask Vedder, as Gleason does, when he goes all “Barbara Walters” on the Pearl Jam frontman when their chat turns to Vedder’s heartbreak of not having a relationship with his biological father. He cries, and we cry, but not nearly as intensely as when Steve and his own dad breakdown in a wrenching mea culpa that moved me like no film ever has.

Yet, the movie, assembled by director Clay Tweel, isn’t all melancholy and sadness. It’s also quite funny, mainly because Gleason is unafraid to poke fun at himself and his often embarrassing situations, like a serious bout of constipation requiring an intervention by no less than three people to get him “going” again. Who knew enemas could be this hilarious? Well, we know now, and “Gleason” teaches even more valuable lessons, not the least of which is the power of love. It’s no match for ALS, but as Steve Gleason proves, it sure helps put up one helluva fight.

“Gleason”
Featuring Steve Gleason, Michel Varisco, Rivers Gleason, Mike Gleason and Eddie Vedder.
Rated R for language. Directed by Clay Tweel.
Grade: A