Shane Meadows, hailed as one of the finest British directors of this generation, is not a filmmaker that sets out to please people. He sets out to please himself, to make the best film he can make and the fact that his films are so popular and successful almost feels like a happy accident. So if you are expecting an investigative, revealing documentary about the trials and tribulations of one of the UK’s most revered bands, then you’d be mistaken. This is so much better than that.
From the spine tingling beginning to the euphoric end, Meadows spills his heart out for us all to see. A true declaration of love if there ever was one, Meadows follows Ian, Squire, Mani and Reni on their 2012 European tour that will eventually climax in Manchester’s Heaton Park. Archive footage of the band from the early days (a particularly painful interview with a loveably smirking, arrogant but hopelessly beautiful Brown and an effortlessly cool, chippy Squire leaves you squirming) is gradually faded out to present day gig footage that makes sure that everyone knows that The Stone Roses are back. And it’s electrifying.
Whilst the film is nigh on perfect, it’s not without its limitations. The fact that Meadows is working with his heroes is certainly not lost on him, and his semi-religious worship of the band means that he never does quite relax; he’s always aware of how he feels towards his subjects, which is something that as a rule, documentary filmmakers should never convey, and it is hard to fathom how someone who isn’t a fan of The Stone Roses would feel the same emotional connection as he does.
But the real heart and soul of the piece comes through his interviews with other fans who do feel that connection, and that connection to others who worship something the way that you do, whether it be a band, a film or a football team, is certainly universal. This collective feeling of unity between a group of people that are spiritually bound by a mutual adoration of something, or someone. The tireless crowd of fans who are queuing up for tickets to a surprise gig in Warrington is made up of fathers who have bought their children, builders who have left their job early, unapologetic, covered splattered in paint, ready to recapture their youth again. And it’s here that Meadows’ humanity, and the love of his characters really shines through. And it’s essentially what the film is really about. It doesn’t matter why the band broke up, what matter is that they’re here, now, performing live at a town hall in Warrington. For free.
What could have easily been a sensationalist, ‘hard-hitting’ music documentary in the wrong hands has been sculpted by Meadows in to a brilliant work of art. A fitting tribute.
This review was originally written for The Fan Carpet