‘The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?’ is tantalising and frustrating in equal measure.
If you’re a fan of The Brothers Gibb you’ll find all the highlights here, the dissolution of the band after its initial success in England in the 1960s, the comeback album they had to have and the apex mountain of 'Saturday Night Fever'.
You’ll nod your head as the late Maurice Gibb describes himself in an archive interview as the peacemaker between his brothers Robin and Barry and another talking head elaborates that Maurice was the superglue that held everything together.
This is not news to fans but where the documentary excels is in its reflection of the passage of time and deeper analysis of well-known footnotes of the group’s career.
We all know they got pigeonholed as the disco guys due to how big they were in that moment, but here it is suggested the backlash against disco that they were caught up in may have sadly been linked to hatred of minorities. Not just the industry and audience wanting to move on and find new sounds which reflected the new times.
More poignantly, the documentary covers the riffs and make-ups that would occur between the brothers. Bright-eyed and alive middle-aged men in the 1990s recalling their differences is one thing. Now a lone surviving brother in his 70s looking out over the view from his Miami mansion insisting he’d give up all the success to have his brothers back with him plays a different note.
There is a mournfulness to the piece, how indeed do you mend a broken heart? The archive footage of their jumbo jet and police escorts through crowds appear like fever dreams. They were that big, and yet those crowds and that fame can evaporate so quickly, and what is left?
To that point, Director Frank Marshall shows the legacy of The Bee Gees is alive and well. Justin Timberlake of all people summing it up unapologetically and enthusiastically, “There’s nothing else to say about the Bee Gees except they’re f...ing awesome”.
Indeed the music stands the test of time but having reached the backlash of disco, the documentary seems lost as to how close out its story.
It insists they reinvented themselves as songwriters when a lot of fans will tell you they charted against all odds through the 1980s to 2001 with their last album. Given their ego clashes, the story of how they pulled together 6 albums in 14 years with the outside world suggesting they were has-beens is a tale worthy of some screen time.
There are a lot of missed opportunities like that, former band members more forthcoming about their memories than Barry or the widows of Robin and Maurice. The Bee Gees – the most popular group in the world at one point – it seems, still value their privacy.
The documentary is at its strongest when delving into the relationship of the brothers in the early years. A little bit more of that in the second half would have been appreciated.
Yet as an informative piece for new fans and a nostalgic ode for old fans, ‘The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?’ fulfils a purpose and reminds us once again just how special these men and their music were and that if you have a sibling you haven’t talked to in a while. . . Maybe pick up the phone.
‘The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?’ is in cinemas from 3 December.