Inspired by the award-winning crowd-sourced documentary Life in a Day, this charming letter of love tells how ‘The Boss’ Bruce Springsteen has changed the lives of millions. Directed by Flashbacks of a Fool helmer Baillie Walsh, it’s a film that’s more suited to repeat home viewings than a big-screen release, But, as a testimonial to the power of music and the iconography of an American, working-class hero, Springsteen & I will resonate with anyone who’s felt the bittersweet pang of art encapsulating the slings and arrows of life.
A mix of jerky concert footage, webcam testimonials and surprisingly well-edited fan anecdotes, there’s enough heart here to keep the theme from feeling overcooked. Walsh returns several times to the device of asking people to describe what Bruce Springsteen means to them in three words – but when the answers are as diverse as ‘joy, passion, memories’, ‘dazzling, timeless, loyalty’ or ‘a local legend’, the human touch implicit in the Boss’ music becomes touchingly apparent.
Fans of all ages and several nationalities contribute, with definite highlights being the young English girl pulled on stage to groove along to Dancing in the Dark, a soccer mom who forces her sons to listen to Bruce in the car, and the ‘Philly Elvis’, a lifelong fan who realised his dream to sing with his own personal king of rock ‘n’ roll.
Necessarily, the film’s preaching to the converted and whether a casual fan or a diehard obsessive, Springsteen & I will only increase your adoration of the man. What sets the film apart however, and it’s something Walsh deserves particular commendation for, is that for a documentary effectively featuring dozens of people saying the same thing, it never feels repetitive. These fans are all united by one man, one passion, and yet every experience is unique and if their stories are stylised, unabashedly honest, awkward or hilarious, what shines through is music’s magical ability to be a unifying force, creating subjective responses.
Springsteen regularly plays live for more than three hours yet one might question the wisdom of Walsh stretching this experiment past the 120-minute mark. However when a film is this inspiring, uplifting and rhythmic, you may as well take a deep breath, wrap your legs round the film’s velvet rims and strap your hands ‘cross its engines.