ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Calling all music lovers, this film is for you. Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band is a confessional, occasionally humorous tale of Robbie Robertson’s young life. We see what led to the creation of one of the most enduring, revered, and influential groups of the twentieth century: The Band. Their unique sound was and still is an inspiration to musicians worldwide. At the height of their popularity, they were considered America’s version of The Beatles.
This documentary is a moving story of Robertson’s personal journey, overcoming adversity and finding camaraderie alongside the four other men who would become his brothers in music. We get to see them making their mark on music history.
This film was inspired by the bestselling 2016 memoir Testimony. Written by legendary guitarist, songwriter, composer, and producer Robbie Robertson without a ghostwriter. When asked why he wrote the book, he is quoted as saying, “A lot of stories had mounted up over the years, and it reached a point where they were too heavy for me to carry around,” Robertson said. “The only way I could get some relief was to set some of them free.”
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band blends rare archival footage, photography, iconic songs, and interviews with Robertson’s friends and collaborators to tell its story. We hear from people like Scorsese, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, and more. Director Daniel Roher does a great job of going behind the scenes and showing us what led to such iconic songs by the group as The Weight. When I watched Robbie Robertson explain how looking into the center of his acoustic guitar led to that awesome song, I was blown away. I knew the rest of the film was going to nerd out about it all. I know some people have complained that this is a one-sided tale of events, Robbie’s side only. Considering both his book and this film deal with his part in the music, I think it’s okay. Someone has to tell the tale.
I give Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band a five-star rating. It will make you dig back into the still relevant music of The Band.
Directed by: Daniel Roher
Written by: Daniel Roher
Running Time: 102min
Documentary / Music / Biography
Limited Release: February 28th The Angelika Film Center & Cafe Plano, Landmark’s Magnolia Theater
Starring: Robbie Robertson, Martin Scorsese, Levon Helm, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, Ronnie Hawkins, Van Morrison, Dominique Robertson
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
4 Stars – Good movie
3 Stars – OK movie
2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.