Music documentary

Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road review – a poignant look back | Music documentary

rolling stone journalist Jason Fine drives in Southern California. Beach Boy Brian Wilson is in the passenger seat. A dash-mounted camera watches as they play Wilson’s back catalog through the car’s speakers. Wilson doesn’t like interviews. Formally diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, the singer-songwriter and producer survived addiction, the loss of his family and an abusive relationship with a quack. It’s no wonder he’s reluctant to rehash the details of his life. The soft approach taken by director Brent Wilson and co-writer Fine here shows that they are keenly aware of the vulnerability of their subject, less interested in extracting anecdotes than creating a safe space for the man 79-year-old reflects on his remarkable legacy.

Archival footage of a round-faced, 22-year-old Wilson flirting with a newsreader provides a poignant contrast to the entertainer of today. However, there is still something boyish about the septuagenarian. Cultural context is provided by speaking personalities such as Elton John and Bruce Springsteen. Linda Perry, formerly of 4 Non Blondes, is the film’s only female contributor, and also the most insightful. “You can tell this man is troubled and trying to escape something,” she said.

When Fine encourages him to elaborate, Wilson isn’t particularly articulate, but his emotional responses to individual songs are often lucid and revealing. It’s heartbreaking to watch him look back on the evergreen innocence of his songbook, of the winter of his life.