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Review: Love & Mercy

A masterpiece of a biopic... and the best part is the music.

Review: Love & Mercy

Paul Dano as Brian Wilson

James Gilmore

W!ZARD News Author

For many people, the words ‘Beach Boys’ bring thoughts of California sun and surfer music.

For the most part, you wouldn’t be wrong – some of the groups biggest hits in the 60s and 70s were surfer jams including ‘Good Vibrations’ and ‘Surfin’ USA’, the ultimate summer jams. However, what many people may not know is that there was an entirely different side to the band…

Love & Mercy tells the story of Beach Boys front man Brian Wilson and his struggles with mental illness and some of the, at times, disturbing events that went on around that. Directed by Bill Pohlad, it is far from your standard biopic, instead acting more like a creative masterpiece based on a true story.

The only issue with that description is that this film is far too accurate to be simply ‘based on a true story’.

When talking about the film, Brian Wilson said that it was so realistic to actual events that sometimes he thought he was watching a videotape of himself on screen, “I actually believed those characters were really who they were, like the guy who played Doctor Landy was so right on ... that it absolutely scared me. [I was] like absolutely in fear for about ten minutes.”

The film is played out with a dual storyline, with interchanging scenes between Wilson in the 60s (a young, good looking man who is starting to hear ‘voices in his head’ whilst focusing on musical masterpiece “Pet Sounds”) played by Paul Dano and Wilson in the 80s (an older, dazed man who is being overmedicated by radical psychotherapist Dr Landy) played by John Cusack.

The storyline in the film is strong and constantly engaging. Unlike so many other films being released recently, there is never a moment that the film allows you to drop attention and doze off. It’s more than engaging… it’s truly fascinating to watch the same man being portrayed in two such extremely different ways.

Perhaps the stand-out performance in the masterpiece is Paul Giamatti’s as Eugene Landy, the man Wilson’s family hired to look after him. It’s a performance so frightening that it’s impossible to believe that any doctor could use such methods on a patient (especially on such a well known public figure)... until you do the research and find out that it’s entirely factual.

In a film filled with such outstanding visual features, it may surprise you to know that the highlight in the production must, most definitely, be Atticus Ross’ musical direction. Love & Mercy features by far one of the best displays of sound production and direction in recent years. The effects and portrayal of Wilson’s “inner voices” are simply revolutionary and mind blowing.

It’s impossible to leave Love & Mercy without a twitch for Pet Sounds. It’s a film which has aided a new bread of biopics and, for once, the best part is the music.

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