Singer June Carter Cash was born in 1929 into the Carter Family, an influential early country music group, and toured with Elvis Presley in the 1950s. She married Johnny Cash in 1968 and became an integral part of his touring show . She also wrote, with Merle Kilgore, one of Cash’s biggest hits, “Ring of Fire.”
Despite his contributions to music, his 1999 solo effort, “Press On,” received little interest from major labels, but the album still won a Grammy. Archival footage from its making anchors the new documentary “June,” directed by Kristen Vaurio.
The phrase that gave this album its title, “Press On,” perfectly sums up June’s philosophy of life. Her love story with Cash and her perseverance in her battle with addictions is one of the most famous in the annals of 20th century celebrities.
“I thank God for people like her who still thought I had some good in me,” Cash said in an archival interview. And John Carter Cash, June and Johnny’s only child, speaks of the love his parents shared: “To get a window into that strength and that beauty we just have to listen to” their music.
Critic Robert Christgau once called Carter Cash, who died in 2003, “that rare thing, an interesting saint: fiery, fiery, creative, proactive.” Contemporary interviews here with Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Carter Cash’s daughter-in-law Rosanne Cash, and Carter Cash’s daughter Carlene Carter expand on her gifts, both musical and maternal.
The bare facts of the Carter Cash story are such that the filmmakers really should have made mistakes not to produce a film that entertains and moves the viewer to tears. “June,” rest assured, does the job well.
Unclassified. Duration: 1 hour 38 minutes. Watch on Paramount+.