Release: 21st November 2016
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
Master storyteller and Oscar winner, Ron Howard, explores this incredible journey in his own unique way: How did The Beatles do this? How did they cope with all the fame and pressure? How did they not only survive, but go on to revolutionise popular music? With original interviews, footage, staggering live performances, and the intimate study of character that Ron Howard is known for, he puts us right inside this extraordinary adventure, answering the question everyone always wants to know: What was it like to be there?!!
If you are a Beatles fan, then there will likely be little about Ron Howard’s vibrant documentary to broaden your landscape of knowledge. However, what it does have is a wonderful assortment of live performances from the fab four which is likely to bring in a whole new generation of fans. What Eight Days A Week lacks in originality, it makes up for in immersive storytelling. Many of us might not have been able to catch John, Paul, George and Ringo in person, but Howard has given us a ticket to the past and the best seat in the house.
Although remaining band members Paul and Ringo happily provide contemporary talking heads about their experiences, a lot of Eight Days finds its more interesting narratives in archive footage and voices of bystanders. The likes of newsman Larry Kane, an emotional Whoopi Goldberg and dreamy-eyed Elvis Costello give some much needed context to the external impact The Beatles were having, while we simultaneously see the hectic schedule that was secretly chipping away at four young boys and their desire to perform. Old interviews with George Harrison and soundbites from the boys in their heyday seem to fly from the ether, and astound with truly inspirational insights into an utterly insane world of fame. One comment about Elvis put things into perspective – “at least we had each other.” – is something that resonates after witnessing the 55,600 hysterical fans at Shea Stadium. Being a Beatles wasn’t just fun or demanding, it was terrifying.
Howard skips through time when it best suits him, and there is little sense of the band’s inner workings at the time, beyond “John and Paul wrote songs.” This isn’t a film that devotes any time to faults or fractious relationships within the band, but rather projects their complaints onto others. Although an outstandingly awful concert in Japan is a rarely seen version of The Beatles, and news that Help! the movie was essentially agony to make is impressively honest. Instead, this is without a doubt Ron Howard celebrating some of music’s most influential musicians, and is a lightweight viewing experience that whizzes by in a flash. Special mention must be made of editor Paul Crowder who makes a seemingly insurmountable task of bringing the story to life, look like a doddle. Documentary filmmaking is hard enough even when it is purposely done, but to turn years of archive footage into such a cohesive and seamless edit is worthy of award notoriety.
Eight Days is far from inquisitive, but never quite demanding of the label “puff piece”. It feels like someone learning something afresh and then relaying the tale to friends in the milieu of interest. Howard makes sensible decisions about what to pursue, and never devotes too much time to one particular band member. Eight Days is a perfect gateway documentary into a deeper appreciation of four very talented, and very charismatic mop tops from Liverpool, who you’ll, without a doubt, be craving to listen to all over again when the final credits roll.
Film Grade: B+
What is on offer here is essentially an entire secondary documentary. Looking at the music scene of the band’s genesis, the 1st hand accounts from fans, and the writing process that became such an integral parts of John and Paul’s relationship; there is plenty to enjoy here.
With some completed performances to choose from and another smattering of images galore, you’d be right in feeling just a little spoilt for choice.
The only thing missing is a small window into the documentary’s creation.
Special Features Grade: A-
Ron Howard can safely join the pantheon of fulltime directors turned deft documentarian. Eight Days A Week and its accompanying special features are as rich in substance and enjoyable as the back catalogue of the band they follow.