Songs for While I’m Away is a feature film documentary about the legendary artist Phil Lynott. The film looks at his life growing up the only black child in Crumlin. Being separated from his mother who had to stay in England and how he fell in love with music and became the icon we all know of today.
To take up this monumental task is director Emer Reynolds who many will know as the director of The Farthest, one of 2017’s most moving and impactful films.
Songs for While I’m Away – It was all a dream
Songs for While I’m Away is a fascinating film. It is clearly a celebration of the great man showcasing all the big hits as well as some of the more intimate pieces. Reynolds brings in Lynott’s family, his band members and several notable artists that were touched by his influence to paint a picture of the man hoping to show audiences a side to the man no one knew.
Now, unfortunately, Songs for While I’m Away does not go as warts and all as it promises. It touches on the darker side of the man towards the end of the film but it doesn’t go to that level that really lets you understand him, at least for my tastes. We learn much from his bandmates and his family about the origin of some of the more famous songs. His life story is also interwoven with the journey of Thin Lizzy and how they grew in fame and how they tried to break into America.
Tonight there’s gonna be a jailbreak
When I come away from a documentary the way I know that it succeeded is through the following factors:
I learned something coming away from the film
I take a deep dive going further into the world explored in the film
With Songs While I’m Away I found that the film only half succeeded at its mission. As someone who is something of a Thin Lizzy virgin, I learned a lot from this film. However, when the film ended I realised that I wasn’t interested in learning more.
The film had given a satisfactory telling of Phil Lynott’s life but it didn’t push me into going further. There were one or two moments towards the end of the film where I did feel the emotional impact because the film did take an intimate look at his childhood, teens and then the life of Thin Lizzy which represented his adult life. It actually felt very much like a Hollywood tell-all at times, a little too clean, which is a shame because with an Irish director behind it I’d hoped we’d see something raw.
Where the film does excel at is its imagery. It’s beautiful. There’s a trippy, dreamlike sense to it which perfectly encapsulates how his music captured the imagination of his fans. Couple this with the score and the music and it’s quite the experience.
As well as that the film has the additional benefit of its charm because Lynott himself jumps off the screen in every scene. He’s captivating and you immediately understand why everyone fell under his spell.
Songs While I’m Away is an enjoyable film with a lot of heart and is a clear love letter to Phil Lynott and his legacy.
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