Love & Mercy (Cert 12, 116 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Drama/Romance/Musical, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99)
Starring: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti, Kenny Wormald, Brett Davern, Jake Abel, Graham Rogers, Bill Camp, Diana Maria Riva.
In the 1980s, Brian Wilson (John Cusack) meets spunky car dealer Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks).
A nervous first date exposes Wilson’s mental fragility and Melinda learns that the singer-songwriter is under the care of his personal physician, Dr Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti).
Brian’s quirks do not deter Melinda and when controlling Dr Landy attempts to terminate the relationship, the plucky car dealer recruits Brian’s housekeeper Gloria (Diana Maria Riva) to expose the medic as a madman.
Intercut with this pivotal romance, stylised flashbacks usher in the groovy 1960s when Brian (now played by Paul Dano) reacts to the release of The Beatles’ Revolver with steely resolve. “I’m going to write the greatest album ever made,” he promises fellow Beach Boys members Dennis (Kenny Wormald), Carl (Brett Davern), Mike (Jake Abel) and Al (Graham Rogers).
Brian questions his artistic genius and the sniping voices in his head grow louder...
Love & Mercy is a sensitive biopic, which juxtaposes Wilson’s first battles with mental illness and the love affair, some 20 years later, that provided the creative spark for his award-winning solo album Smile.
Scriptwriters Oren Moverman and Michael A Lerner overcome the daunting prospect of dual timeframes with finesse, while director Bill Pohlad elicits strong performances from Dano and Cusack as the two incarnations of a song-writing genius.
For a film which confronts the vagaries of the human mind and various forms of abuse, it is too neat in its depictions of characters and their poisonous relationships but this is a small blemish on an otherwise polished step back in time.