The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash ★★★

There have been any number of movies about Johnny Cash, from documentaries like “My Father and the Man in Black” to glorified concert films like “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison” and an Oscar-winning biopic, “Walk the Line,” but none have expressed the singular power of his solemn voice better than “The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash.” A womb-to-tomb oral history that was made with the full support and participation of the late singer’s family (and sometimes feels too close to its subject as a result), the film makes sure that nothing supercedes or waters down the humbled, biblical tenor that always made it sound as though Cash was steeling us for the darkness to come.

From Bruce Springsteen and Rick Rubin to several of Johnny Cash’s children, more than a dozen people offer some kind of interview testimony, but — archival photographs notwithstanding — their faces never appear on screen; Cash’s first real contact with the world was through the radio, and Thom Zimny’s doc is hellbent on restoring the primacy of the human voice. Cash’s voice was his gift, and it only grew more valuable as he got older. Now that he’s gone, it’s absolutely priceless. It’s holy. If nothing else, this film will be an undeniable wake-up call to anyone who may not have realized that.

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