On the Road
According to On the Road, life on a tour bus isn’t all sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Not even close. Michael Winterbottom’s latest film combines documentary footage of British alt-rock band, Wolf Alice, with the fictional backstage romance of two crew members. While an intriguing concept, the piece lacks direction and personality and consequently fails to impress.
It’s an ambitious move to attempt to combine fictional storylines with nonfiction events. We follow the musicians as a fly on the wall through the UK portion of their 2016 tour. The good majority of the film is comprised of concert footage and behind the scenes moments of the band, which for die-hard fans could easily be a great concert DVD. Lead singer Ellie Rowsell and fellow bandmates are at their most engaging while performing: the footage of them in their element captures that and is truly stunning. Unfortunately, the glitter fades once off stage and we are left with a string of relatively uninspiring moments between gigs. There is a distinct lack of personal interaction within the band that leaves an unsatisfied feeling.
As strangely as we are denied access to any potential emotional connection to Wolf Alice, we are then prompted with the artificial casual relationship of Estelle and Joe, a record label rep and a roadie. A romance between the two is hinted at early on and there is a brief moment of satisfaction when the two first share a kiss. Although the film begs for a substantive relationship to provide depth and perhaps even a bit of conflict, the romance disappointingly never takes off. This fictional side-plot, which could have been a compelling narrative arc to offset the otherwise excessive concert footage, regrettably only enhances a sense of banal indifference. On the Road has all the right elements that come together in all the wrong ways. It’s an excellent concert documentary for a talented band but is unfortunately dragged down by a lacklustre ancillary plot.
On the Road does not have a UK release date yet.
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