“If you have five seconds to spare, then I’ll tell you the story of my life. Sixteen, clumsy and shy. That’s the story of my life.” But it actually takes the filmmakers better part of 90 minutes to tell the story of the young Morrissey in the late 1970s.
It’s all about him and his humdrum town, being a miserable bastard in his room, listening to early Marianne Faithfull and the Shangri-Las, writing poetry, occasionally going to a gig, and sending letters to the NME and Sounds. (Unlike most of the others involved in the local scene then, he actually was from inner city Manchester.) There’s everything you would expect in terms of plot points, including the band he had with Billy Duffy for about five seconds and the Manchester Sex Pistols show that everyone was at.
You have Jack Lowden playing Moz, and he’s basically quite fine in the role. We see him going from a long-haired Dolls fan to getting the quiff haircut that tells us that he’s going to be the Morrissey we all knew before he became unlovable after he spent too many nights at the National Front Disco. His friendship with Linder Sterling (Jessica Brown Findlay) is also featured. The plot is basically him dreaming of going down in music history, looking for a job and finding it, and heaven knows he’s miserable now. It doesn’t go too deep into the questions everyone asks about his sexuality, and in any case he claimed to have been celibate for a very long period.
The performances are all solid, and it’s a good film. As Morrissey and the other former members of the Smiths had no involvement with the film, there are no Smiths songs featured for obvious reasons but then again its Moz right before he forms the band. Unlike the somewhat similar Control, which as shot in Nottingham, it was shot on location, and often exactly where the events happened. And as the scenes reveal, although Morrissey claimed to live in poverty (in fact, he signed letters ‘In poverty,’ during this period), he was much more middle-class than he was willing to admit.
One of the producers¸ Roger O’Donnell, used to be in The Cure, which is funny since Morrissey and Robert Smith hate each other.
There is a commentary from the director, Mark Gill and Lowden, and some behind-the-scenes stuff in the package, but what difference does it make?