On the Road
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Starring Leah Harvey, James McArdle, Shirley Henderson, Paul Popplewell and Jamie Quinn
North London band Wolf Alice have had a rise to prominence that might have been bends-inducing were it not for their tightness as a group. In summer of 2015, the deliciously dark, hook-and-riff-filled sound of their debut album, My Love Is Cool, inspired the NME to crown it: "the debut of the decade". As a measure of their impact, BAFTA-winning filmmaker Michael Winterbottom joined the band on the road, capturing 16 different gigs and daily life backstage.
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★★★★ review by Ken Rudolph on Letterboxd
Michael Winterbottom returns to the music documentary genre with this intriguing hybrid (half-documentary, half fictitious love story) film. Ostensibly, the film follows the English rock group Wolf Alice on a lengthy tour of venues by boat and bus from Ireland through England, Scotland, Wales and culminating in a concert in London. Although there are copious amounts of concert footage from the band and their opening act, the film concentrates on an affair between the young female photographer sent on the tour by "management," Estelle (Leah Harvey), and one of the roadies on the tour, Joe (James McArdle). It was an interesting concept to combine reality with fiction; but honestly the love affair seemed superfluous. On the other hand, the group Wolf Alice (a foursome with a female lead singer-guitarist, a great drummer and two fine guitarists) really grew on me. Their brand of sweet, hard rock reminded me of an earlier similar group "Jefferson Airplane". The film comprehensively showed the ins-and-outs of modern day touring. Perhaps it ran on too long; perhaps a little pruning of the many venues the band played in would have been an improvement. Nevertheless, the film totally worked for me...simply because I fell in love with the band Wolf Alice and their music, talent and personalities.
★★★★ review by RiseTheHorizon on Letterboxd
It is Christmas Day, I am wearing drawstring shorts and there are tears streaming down my face.
Ellie; you are an ethereal strong jawed beast, never change.
★★★½ review by Olga on Letterboxd
“Tour rockumentary meets fictional love story” sounds exciting, but in reality this film never lives up to what it wants to be. The characters are undeveloped, which makes it difficult to get invested in their romance.
Luckily, there are Wolf Alice and their friends, stealing the spotlight with their genuine chemistry. The talented and charismatic band members truly shine in live performances. It’s wonderful to see a band that’s about to blow up in such an early stage of their career.
★★★★ review by Raph Lumbroso on Letterboxd
"When we grow older
We'll still be friends
We'll still be lovers
And won't fear the end"
Michael Winterbottom's oblique tour film blurring fiction and documentary follows Wolf Alice through a whirlwind of shows and stolen moments of respite and meaning.
I haven't loved a band this much since Placebo in my teenage years, and while some of the editing and narrative choices could have been better, this was really something special.
It's not an intimate baring-of-all as much as it is a clever, intuitive document of a time and a feeling.
The members of the band feel as honest and uniformly authentic as always but they - enigmatic and bewitching frontwoman Ellie Rowsell especially - are still reserved and seem disinterested in spewing the full extent of their personalities and lives into the public domain.
Because of this, we pick up bits and pieces of who they are and how they feel about the music and the process but it's about life on the road and little more.
For fans of the band this film will be a treat with lasting impact, but might lack a hook for other viewers.
On the Road feels like an important part of music history in the making, and I know that it will be looked back on, years in the future when Wolf Alice is a name everyone knows and the sounds they have made and will make still echo in our memory when we're all so much older.
I hope the young in those years will discover Ellie, Theo, Joel and Joff and find a copy of this film to watch with the reverence I've viewed documentaries like Joy Division and Cobain: Montage of Heck, about musicians long gone from the scene but still as real as they were in living colour with moving parts.
I'm seeing them live for my second and third times on back to back nights next month and I can't wait to let all of that in and take it with me where I go next.
★★★★★ review by Xoch on Letterboxd
My first time watching Wolf Alice live was in the summer of 2016. I was going back to university after getting out of for health issues. I was seeing them near the beach in the town of St. Augustine with my best friend. I woke up at 4am to drive to the city, my skin soaked from the sun - my hair even got lighter that day from queueing in the damn Florida heat. Till this day, they're one of my favorite bands to listen to and see live.
This short is one of my favorites because it captured the band members at their tour moments. There's so many favorite shots that I love watching over and over again because those same shots is what makes Wolf Alice to me.
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