My Life Story opens with Suggs (the iconic frontman of Madness) walking down an alley. With a can of graffiti he sprays the name of the film, followed with an ellipsis and a question mark. It’s a nice touch that reveals much about things to come. This isn’t your bog standard music biopic. There’s no talking heads from the man himself nor from other people who’d speak about the man in revered tones. Things aren’t told from the beginning to the present day. And, whilst archive footage is used, it’s not always used in the most expected of manners. But, then again, what else could we expect from a collaboration between Suggs and filmmaker Julien Temple?
Suggs explains that it was his fiftieth birthday that triggered of a spate of self-reflection. It was also the day his cat inadvertently committed suicide which didn’t do much for his mood. A conversation that day with his mum about his father, who had left when Suggs was very young, then leads to him going to find out more about what happened to his dad. Things carry on from there in that sort of tone, of one thing leading onto the next. The effect could have been rambling but instead feels personal and heartfelt. Telling a life story from beginning to end would be all-too-artificial. Storytelling by default tends to be far more drifty, a bit like life really.
The story is told solely by the man himself, predominantly from the stage but with some very entertaining recreations for great comedic effect. There’s something vaudevillian about proceedings, which is more than apt considering the subject. There’s even a few musical numbers to make things feel even more like a musical hall performance. Two threads are skillfully woven together – his researching his father in the present day and his past, from childhood to the Madness era. There’s a nice balance between each, seamlessly moving between the past and the present – often interlinking in surprising stranger-than-fiction ways.
Such a style requires a very good storytelling, and unsurprisingly we’re in good company here. If you’ve ever seen a snippet of Suggs on telly, or heard him on the radio, you’ll know how verbose he is. His storytelling style, as it is here, is warm and witty. Reflective and knowing. Self-aware but just as self-deprecating. It’s a real pleasure to sit and watch, almost feeling like you’re really there at the theatre and in his presence. Your attention is always held and constantly rewarded with some crackers of a yarn.
o Dir: Julien Temple, Owen Lewis
o Scr: Toby Follett, Graham McPherson
o Cast: Perry Benson, Suggs, Ashley Gunstock, Dean Mumford, June Trend
o Prd: Stephen Malit
o DOP: Steve Organ
o Music: Laura Nakhla,Chantelle Woodnutt
o Country: UK
o Year: 2017
o Run time: 96 mins
‘My Life Story‘ will be premiering live in UK cinemas on January 17th.