What makes Hemingway work - what inspired me to add several Hemingway books that I either haven't read or haven't read since college to my online shopping queue - is the almost text-by-text analysis of his writing.
Mostly, though, Burns and Novick face the opposite challenge: an excess of material. The evidence of the eventfulness of that life -- its exteriority -- is extensive, to say the least. Meeting that challenge, they demonstrate a fine eye for detail.
From the eclectic stylings to the difficult phases in their relationship, the first hour doesn't shy away from the darkness, volatility, and bluntness surrounding the writer's life while serving as a through-line for the man he will become.
Hemingway is an engaging and beautifully constructed character study and proof that whatever Burns chooses to cover as a filmmaker will more than likely become the definitive documentary on that specific topic.
Hemingway never shirks from the writer's dark side - considering his ultimate fate, echoing his own father's suicide, how could it? - but the film also makes a strong and moving case for his enduring masterworks and their insight into human nature.
This is a must-watch experience for devotees who have devoured such classics as "A Farewell to Arms," "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "The Sun Also Rises," and it's essential viewing for those only passingly familiar with Hemingway...