About half way through Love & Mercy, I began to contemplate for the first time why I was watching a biopic on Brian Wilson; a man whose music has never appealed to me and whose personal tragedies had never entered into my awareness. Yet such is one of the wonders of cinema, which can engross and affect you in that which you didn’t think or even desire capable.
It’s a refreshingly restrained biopic, with a focus of two distinct periods of trouble and torture for this man which inform one another in a rich narrative harmony and equally inform viewers. They speak about Wilson as an individual, a musical prodigy and his legacy within both realms. Oren Moverman’s script is effectively serviceable for its purpose, but it’s truly the performances which propel this film into harmonic heights, with Paul Dano and Elizabeth Banks in particular becoming very rewarding to watch. Pohlad’s direction is also a treat, especially in the studio scenes recording the iconic album Pet Sounds, but there’s a loss of tightness in the final third when narrative points become rushed and overlooked. It feels resolved too quickly and comfortably to not only justifiably account for Wilson’s own emotional trajectory, but also compliment the first half of this sensitively drawn, touching and compassionately told tale.