Ed Sheeran’s rise to success puzzled a lot of people, especially the “experts” in the music industry. A down-to-earth man with simple love songs managed to play on the biggest stages without dance moves, without controversy or smoke and mirrors. Sheeran’s honesty and lack of PR attracted young audiences who were sick of the artificial popstars they were used to being told to follow.
Songwriter follows the singer through his creative process as he works on his latest album, Divide. We shadow Sheeran as he visits his mentor at his old secondary school, works with producer Benny Blanco in LA, records in Abbey Road Studios, and travels to America in the Queen Mary 2 – because of Benny’s fear of flying. All the while, director Murray Cummings displays the musician’s dedication to the craft. Even while getting the boat over to the States, the troubadour sets up a travel studio so that he can keep working.
Sheeran is a warm, straight-talking artist and watching someone so dedicated to their craft can be inspiring. However, the film treads lightly on the surface of the songwriter, afraid to penetrate to any profound introspective moments. The camera captures songs already prepared and fleshed out as if the singer had just come up with them on the spot. Cummings is also Sheeran’s cousin so, perhaps being too close to his subject, he was reticent to explore or challenge in order to get a bigger picture.
There are brief moments of tension when Sheeran records at Abbey Road or where the pressure of the music industry begins to seep in. These minor conflicts are not enough to push Songwriter into more complex directions. For the most part, the documentary is a bland procession of repetitive scenes that merely seek to reinforce the image of a genius. The interviews are with the director and other family members who share memories and photos of Sheeran’s development to again sanctify the musician without ever rocking the pedestal.
Songwriter does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
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