Magazine article Screen International

'On the Road': London Review

Magazine article Screen International

'On the Road': London Review

Article excerpt

Dir. Michael Winterbottom. UK, 2016, 120 mins

Among the many stop-offs in a prolific career, British director Michael Winterbottom's output has included road movies, pop films, new angles on old genres and experimental fact/fiction mergers. These routes meet to largely rousing effect in his latest trip, where fly-on-the-bus snapshots of touring life for North London indie-rockers Wolf Alice combine with the warmly played fictional tale of a tour-bus fling. The links between strands can seem sketchy, but an engaging, eye-opening blend of sweaty mosh-pits, backstage bonding and between-gigs driftmakes for a distinctly on-the-hoof portrait of a once-only moment in a fast-rising band's upwards curve.

If well targeted at the band's and director's audiences, this Don't Look Back-inspired pic could be a modest but sound investment for Lorton Entertainment, the UK financier-distributor whose recent projects include Oasis documentary Supersonic. While Winterbottom's name could generate intrigue, Wolf Alice's fast-expanding fanbase may well boost numbers.

Those fans flooded out for the band's March 2016 UK tour, as documented here. Sold-out signs speckle mid-sized venues from Belfast to London, where the four-piece emerges as a natural magnet for teenage fans and older, nostalgic indie-heads. Fronted in regulation indie-wear DMs and torn tights by Ellie Rowsell, the band emerges as a bright spot in today's often drab guitar-rock market, Wolf Alice's mix of sweet bubblegum melodies and scorching grunge riffs capped offto perfection by the singer's dreamy coo, feral roar and natural charisma.

A director who proved he knows his alt-rock onions with 9 Songs and 24 Hour Party People, Winterbottom gets close to his well-chosen headline act live. Crowd's-eye views are bracingly captured by well-travelled DoP James Clarke (The Trip, Great Canal Journeys), who elsewhere strikes judicious notes of romanticised realism. Rain-lashed windows and time-lapsed night-time street-lights contrast with gigging's grittier details, a routine of backstage corridors and unwelcoming concrete, equipment-lugging toil and forced intimacy.

As Wolf Alice livens up off-stage time by DJing and jamming with support acts (Swim Deep, Bloody Knees), punk-chic bassist Theo Ellis proves an enlivening presence. …

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