It makes complete sense that a documentary about a football player who is often called a “squirrel” would be as nuts as possible, and that’s exactly what viewers got when they watched “100%: Julian Edelman.”
The film, directed by Kyler Schelling and executively produced by Edelman and Assaf Swissa, highlights Edelman’s journey back to the field from a torn ACL and a four-game suspension, all the while providing insight into his early years and rise to Patriots fame.
The movie is incredibly unique, with a clever mix of narration and interviews to tell a story that intertwines serious moments with comedy and scripted entertainment.
Starting off with a brilliant opener from Boston’s own Mark Wahlberg and wrapping up with Edelman’s father Frank, the film has a perfect combination of celebrity star power and real family connections that all serve a proper purpose in the story being told throughout the hour and 13 minutes that the documentary spans.
Right off the bat, you get a sense of what the movie will be: unfiltered and real, while following a script in a very methodical way. Wahlberg mixes in his usual Boston charm to start the documentary with some expletives, and the story starts off with a bang to get the audience hooked from the start.
The crew spent the perfect amount of time on the right story elements, whether it’s Edelman’s roots in the Bay Area in California, the injury that took him off the field in 2017, his entertainment endeavors away from football, or the suspension that held him back from returning at the start of the Patriots’ 2018 campaign. It blends in its fun and family moments throughout, but tells a serious story with some common themes that provide incredible insight into the mind of the Patriots receiver.
The main thing that stuck out to me was the idea of isolation at troubling times in Edelman’s career, and how he uses obstacles to make himself stronger on the other end. In a film with a lot of comedic focus at times, those behind the scenes still managed to get into the nitty-gritty with Edelman in a way that not many could have fully expected given the story’s format.
During the dominating storylines in the last few years of Edelman’s life, he brings up how lonely he felt following his ACL injury or the suspension for a performance-enhancing substance. In both scenarios, he brings up having to watch his teammates on the field without him, whether it’s in the locker room after getting injured or from home during his suspension, and the anger and depression that comes along with those emotions.
While it’s not anything earth-shattering to hear that an athlete is upset about not being on the field to help their team, it’s interesting to hear from a player like Edelman, who often is cracking jokes or showing excitement both on and off the field, about such a serious topic. In that way, I think the film already won in bringing you a real look at the NFL veteran’s life in a unique way.
Side note: It was also interesting to hear about the isolation between Edelman and his father after the suspension, with the two not speaking for more than 80 days after the news broke. In a nice touch, I thought finally putting father and son together in one interview for the first time in the film right after they reconcile in the story was an incredible touch.
But, like I mentioned before, the film is all about variety. You don’t want to see the serious sides of the story that I enjoyed? Here, have some jokes from Bill Burr or Michael Rapoport. You want to see some real football analysis? Here’s Michael Strahan, Deion Sanders, Erin Andrews, or even The Athletic’s Jeff Howe (a fun cameo for those who are looking for some great Patriots coverage online). You want some celebrity star power to keep you entertained? Look no further than Wahlberg, Snoop Dogg or Guy Fieri.
The whole cast of characters throughout is nuts, which is fitting given the interviews we see with Edelman’s family. Whether they’re calling Edelman himself nuts, his dad crazy, or anything in between, it’s great to hear from his siblings and parents in a tell-all setting, giving a proper blending pot of content throughout.
My personal favorite moment? Learning about the early days of Edelman’s friendship with Tom Brady. I laughed audibly at Brady’s lower third describing the Patriots legend as a “Work Friend,” and loved Edelman’s impression of his quarterback’s phone call to him to make the trip to UCLA for a workout. I felt that they did a great job prioritizing his relationships with the important people in his life, like his father, family members, and his football connections from high school, college and the NFL.
All the Brady content came right after a good focus on Patriots coach Bill Belichick, which provided the lone nitpick in my book. As Schelling mentioned in my interview with him before the film’s release, Belichick was the lone name on the “dream list” that didn’t agree to being in the film, but mainly because the question wasn’t even asked. While it was slightly glaring to not hear from Belichick at all throughout, it almost added to the self-contained and secretive nature that the Patriots coach thrives off of, so I’ll give the benefit of the doubt.
I found it incredibly interesting how Edelman’s father, a strict “coach” that even called himself a “Baby Belichick” trying to make him the best football player he can be, mirrored most of the important football figures in Edelman’s life, such as Brady or Belichick himself. Sure, they’re tough on him and, at times, may do things that seem annoying or angering, but they all serve as small obstacles that make Edelman better on the other end.
It’s a common theme throughout, like I mentioned before, where Edelman turns any obstacle into a positive and learns from it, all with his family and loved ones by his side. Like when Edelman’s mother was asked about whether she thought he’d make it to the NFL, she had a response that seemed like an obstacle that many were thinking, but never said to his face.
“I never thought he had a chance,” she said.
That seemed to be the common thread throughout, and I loved it. You don’t think he’ll make it to a big-enough college program? He did that. The NFL? He’s thriving in it. Jeff Howe thought it was “virtually unprecedented” that he came back from both an ACL injury AND a suspension? He ended up with a Super Bowl MVP. He’s also got a kid that he’s helping provide for while he recovers and plays in the NFL? He’s doing that, as well.
“It’s the humble beginnings, the road you took, it makes you want to go out and work even harder,” Edelman said.
Everything Edelman’s done throughout his life has served as motivation to do more, and it was evident throughout the entire film. Like Erin Andrews said, it was a storybook ending, and it was a story that played out perfectly for Edelman and his crew to make this incredible documentary a reality.
For anyone that hasn’t seen this documentary, check it out on Showtime now, whether it’s on TV one night, on their website or on demand. Trust me, it’s worth your time.