PHOTO CREDIT: Elliott Landy

Starring: The Band

Director: Daniel Roher

Running Time: 98 Minutes

Rating: R for Language Apparently

Release Date: February 21, 2020 (Limited)

If you want to see the story of a music group in feature film form, you’ve got plenty of rock biopics to choose from. But how many of them really capture the bands at their truest essence? Another common option to sate your musical desire is the talking head documentary, which has no illusions about its ability (or lack thereof) to recreate all those melodies and lyrics springing into being. But the oral tradition is an important one. What is passed down from storyteller to listener is transformed into something a little different in its journey from mouth to ear, but there is nevertheless quite a bit of magic in the mix, especially when you have first-hand witness accounts at the ready. Not everyone who was around when it happened was available for Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band, but there’s enough in this telling to convey the power of one of the most influential groups in rock music history.

If you’re a superfan of The Band, you might already know a fair amount of the details in Once Were Brothers, but you’ll probably enjoy getting to experience them all again anyway. If you’re a casual fan who doesn’t know a whole lot of the backstory (like myself), you’ll find plenty to engage with as you get to hear some fantastic tunes. And if you’re a bit of a Band newbie who wants to know more about inflection points in popular American music, I think you’ll find a lot to latch onto. As Bruce Springsteen claims at one point in the film, The Band’s lineup included “three of the greatest white singers in rock history.” To me, that sounds like the prelude to a story worthy of a deep-dive examination, and Once Were Brothers delivers on that promise.

Once Were Brothers is Recommended If You Like: Country rock, Roots rock, Southern rock, Folk rock

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Big Pinks