Providing a new insight into an old favourite, Ron Howard’s The Beatles: Eight Days A Week offers its audience an exclusive look into the lives of the Fab Four during their touring years from 1962 to 1966. The film is comprised of photos, video and audio recordings from TV, film, records, and personal archives, and framed by interviews with the band themselves (both recent, past and posthumous), their crew and other celebrities. Howard tracks the musical moptops’ swift journey from playing in the underground Cavern Club to local Liverpool crowds to selling out city stadiums across the globe, right up until their final concert in Candlestick Park, San Francisco in 1966.
Opening the film with their performance of ‘She Loves You’ in 1963 at ABC Cinema, the hits just keep on coming, almost covering their entire catalogue of records and practically every show over the 4 year period (including their visit to Adelaide that put our town on the map for international music-lovers!) The film also references significant historical events that happen within this timeline, including the assassination of JFK and segregation in the USA, and how these affected the band.
While Howard follows Beatles doco tradition in illustrating the at times hilarious hysteria of Beatlemania, he goes further by looking at the impact this intense fandom and the celebrity lifestyle had on the young men – practically still boys – as they were thrown onto the world’s stage in a whirlwind. At first amused and enthused by their overnight fame, it is revealed that as the years wore on, society’s scrutiny on top of the endless touring (which was their livelihood, rather than record sales) was slowly wearing them out. Eventually it got to the point where they collectively agreed, as they did on everything, they were ‘playing like shit’, it was ‘no longer about the music’ and they ‘couldn’t do it anymore’.
As the boys start to feel the lethargy of living life in the fast lane, the audience too begins to feel their exhaustion, which speaks to excellent emotional direction on Howard’s part. To lift spirits, he depicts The Beatles cheeky nature and camaraderie as their lifejacket as they treaded the waters of fame, and their shared love for writing music as the lifeboat that saved them as they began to drown.
The film’s last song, being their final public performance together of ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ on the rooftop of Apple Corps in 1969, leaves the audience walking out of the cinema with a strong sense of relief that the band found their solace after years of touring turmoil. Overall, Howard’s documentary is one that is true to the band, due to the production input of Paul, Ringo, and John and George’s surviving spouses, and makes its audience laugh and sing, regardless of whether they are a Beatles nut or not.
Reviewed by Georgia Brass