Spirit of the West frontman John Mann shares his story in the film Spirit Unforgettable.

Spirit of the West frontman John Mann shares his story in the film Spirit Unforgettable.

John Mann shows indomitable spirit in new documentary

Vernon Film Society screens Spirit Unforgettable about Spirit of the West frontman John Mann and his journey with early onset Alzheimer’s.

The Vernon Film Society shows the acclaimed documentary Spirit Unforgettable Monday, Nov. 14.

The story follows John Mann, the lead singer of Vancouver Celtic-rock band Spirit of the West, and his journey through early onset Alzheimer’s disease, which he was diagnosed with in 2014 at age 52.

Because of this devastating illness, unfortunately familiar to so many of us, Mann has to confront the reality that he is losing grasp of the poetic and political lyrics he shared with millions.

The film is directed by Mann’s long-time friend Pete McCormack and follows the journey Mann takes, supported by his wife Jill Daum, band members and, of course, his fans.

Mann and his bandmates decide to give their fans a goodbye, hoping John can hang on for what could be his first and final performance at Massey Hall (he did go on to do other performances at the Commodore in Vancouver, but no  longer performs).

From the opening line, “You’ll have to excuse me, I’m not at my best,” to the climactic refrain of “take me home,” the lyrics to the band’s greatest hit Home for a Rest have taken on new meaning.

Bandmate anecdotes and archival material are interwoven with Mann’s struggle to retain a sense of self in this emotional tribute to an incredible artist making the most of every moment as he fights with dignity against this crippling disease.

“You don’t need to be a Spirit fan to be moved by what happens at Massey Hall, and in Mann’s life. Like the band’s music, the film is smart and sensitive, without being sappy,” wrote film critic Marsha Lederman  in The Globe and Mail.

The film was the most popular Canadian documentary at the recent Vancouver International Film Festival.

Rated PG, Spirit Unforgettable shows at the Towne Cinema, Nov. 14 at 5:15 and 7:45 p.m. Tickets are $7 (cash only), available one week in advance at the Bean Scene and the theatre box office.


Vernon Morning Star