The 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 part of his touring show. She also wrote, with Merle Kilgore, of one of Cash’s greatest hits, “Ring of Fire.”
Despite her contributions to music, her solo endeavor in 1999, “Press On,” elicited little interest from the major labels, but the album went on to win a Grammy regardless. Archival footage of its making anchors the new documentary “June,” directed by Kristen Vaurio.
The phrase that gave that album its title, “Press On,” is a neat encapsulation of June’s life philosophy. Her love story with Cash, and her perseverance as he battled addictions, is one of the most renowned in the annals of 20th-century celebrity.
“I thank God for people like her who still thought I had a little good in me,” Cash said in an archival interview. And John Carter Cash, the sole child of June and Johnny, says of the love his parents shared: “To get a window on that strength and beauty we have but to listen” to their music.
The critic Robert Christgau once characterized Carter Cash, who died in 2003, as “that rare thing, an interesting saint: fiery, feisty, creative, proactive.” Contemporary interviews here with the likes of Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Carter Cash’s stepdaughter Rosanne Cash and Carter Cash’s daughter Carlene Carter, expand on her gifts, both musical and maternal.
The bare facts of Carter Cash’s story are such that the filmmakers would have had to really mess up to not produce a movie that entertains and moves a viewer to tears. “June,” rest assured, does the job well.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes. Watch on Paramount+.