Love & Mercy tells the unfortunate story of Beach Boys singer Brian Wilson in two time periods – in the 1960s as he struggles with an emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece; and in the 1980s as a broken, confused man under the 24-hour watch of shady therapist, Dr. Eugene Landy.
The reason why this film is so important is because it shows the mistreatment of those struggling with mental conditions that many still struggle to understand and how these conditions need to be carefully managed and looked after properly and not taken advantage of, especially when you’re in a position like Brian Wilson, the protagonist of this film. And both Paul Dano, who plays 60′s Wilson, and John Cusack, who plays 80′s Wilson, portray their unifying character’s condition with a seamless energy.
Beginning with Dano’s performance’s as a younger Wilson, it’s almost hard to watch at times because of how downtrodden his life becomes from the once energetic young man to a drained artist. Dano encapsulates the performance with care, never once making it feel forced. A heartbreaking moment in the film is when Dano’s performance of Wilson begins to suffer a panic attack, anyone who has suffered one whose experienced one will feel for him as a character. His panic is so accurately displayed that at one point, I almost suffered it with him. But Dano’s performance isn’t as dramatic and heart wrenching as this panic attack as he portrays the symptoms of depression of both physical and mental abuse from his father and disapproval of his musical direction from fellow bandmate, Mike Love. Dano’s work has always been exceptional and his performance in this film doesn’t fail to live up to that expectation, if notfar exceeding it.
John Cusack continues Dano’s performance later in Wilson’s life and his performance showed how challenging it is to rebuild your life after going through such anguish. And that’s one of the things that I love about the film – it doesn’t exaggerate or make up the events of Wilson’s life to make it more interesting, as many biopics seem to do nowadays.
I may have been too young to really experience or have been directly influenced by the Beach Boys music at the time of their release, but that doesn’t mean that the emotional content of the film wasn’t portrayed brilliantly and will definitely inspire a new generation to listen to their music.
Go and see this film. It’s so important.