Writing objectively about anything connected with Stuart Murdoch is tricky. For approaching two decades now, Stuart and his cohorts in Belle and Sebastian have beguiled and bewitched in equal measure. Inadvertently, the band has been the starting point for so many wonderful times in our lives. Travel plans have been hatched and friendships have been formed on what appears to be little more than a whim.
Conversations tend to go along the lines of
“Belle and Sebastian are doing …”
“Are they? Can we go?”
This logic lead to us spending last weekend in Scotland for the launch of “God Help The Girl” a musical film that has been edging towards completion over recent years. Written and directed by Stuart Murdoch, this was a brave step into a new direction for him.
As luck would have it we were able to see the film twice over the weekend. Firstly on Saturday whilst testing our bodies to breaking point by watching the film whilst sitting on the ground in Edinburgh, prior to a Belle and Sebastian gig with guest appearances from some of the stars of the film and from the initial God Help The Girl album that came out in 2009. This was followed on Sunday by a showing at the GFT in Glasgow followed by a Q&A with Stuart and the 3 leads from the film.
It was interesting to hear Stuart say that when they started to look for funding for the film his B&S credentials appeared to work against them rather than for them. This resulted in the start of a Kickstarter Project in an effort to get the ball rolling. We were happy to contribute to this, hence our invitation to Glasgow to see the finished project. We are happy to report that our money was spent very wisely indeed.
The film is a tender and funny portrait of a summer friendship between three people (pictured above) who are looking to change their destiny through a shared love of pop music. The troubled Eve (Emily Browning) is guided towards a new beginning by loveable pop snob James (Olly Alexander) and his music pupil friend Cass (Hannah Murray).
This is a musical, so if the idea of actors bursting into song, be that exuberant or reflective, sends you dashing for the exit, well this won’t be the film for you. The songs range from '60s girl group pastiche to touchingly understated bedroom laments, with some great dance set pieces thrown into the mix.
The film is set in Glasgow (of course) and makes full use of the musical talent of the city when it comes to some inspired cameo appearances. You may not have been a troubled teenager yourself but if you were, or know someone that was, this film could leave you more than a little misty eyed. There are though some lovely humorous moments in the film as well and I particularly enjoyed both the football scene with Josie Long starring as a dangerously intense team captain and the on stage confrontation between Olly Alexander and Camera Obscura drummer Lee Thomson at the start of the film.
So, much like a Belle and Sebastian gig, this is a film that can bring a joyous glow and a big smile to your face, moments after you have been on the verge of reaching for a tissue to deal with that annoying drip from your eye. How will it fare? Well in these days of ever more expensive effects, explosions and violence in film, it appears to be fantastically out of step with much that it is competing with. That’s the thing with Stuart Murdoch, he is brave enough to follow his own path and share his very personal view of the world with us. Hopefully the film will reach an audience outside of the confines of the Belle and Sebastian fanbase, it’s a beautiful film about that time when the path of your life is about to take a change of direction.