An induced headache awaits those that are unfamiliar with the fan base that revolves around the very profitable and famous boy band, One Direction. For their documentary This is Us, (following their lives on the road during tour) not only provides the hysteria of the fans within the film, but also the ones that are in the cinema with you. For almost the entirety of the screening, the over zealous children, teenagers and adults in their seats projected as much distorted fandom noise (screaming, cheering, clapping, singing) as those depicted in the film. And for most part, you would be under the impression that you were at the concert yourself, with the boy band enlarged in front of you.
After the credits rolled, I weighed the uncertainty I felt, and also the realisation that occurred not long after. Their fame makes sense. Not being overly knowledgable on their rise to celebrity status, or that I didn’t know one of their songs off by heart, or even all the names of the stars on screen, I was one to dismiss their stardom as effect of teenage fanatic support, but alas, they can sing, quiet admirable, and each one is dynamic and charismatic in their own way, which I would believe connects to the mass of individuals and was the main front of the picture.
Unfortunately, as much as the live performances collaged over the narrative were undeniably entertaining, it drowned out the core, and the elements that could have propelled the documentary into an intriguing coming of age, celebrity story, was only scratched upon, and thus, sorely forgotten. Only giving a taste of a more personal arch on each of their own beginnings, family ties, and the fractures that exists within their sudden fame. Which, from my stand point, would have been a more enthralling and touching documentary overall. It went full gear into their fans, their songs, their friendship with each other, and interviews with the families (which is documentary making 101, at its most basic forum for this medium), and didn’t stray from that path.
This is Us tried to justify the normality of the young stars, but just as a reality television show treads the same path, ultimately failed with unnecessary forcefulness, attempting to create a less glitzy reality they live in, whilst reminding you, “Don’t forget, they are famous and everyone is obsessed with them.” Proceeding to recapture the everyday life they originate from, leaving those segments feeling woefully unnatural and obviously scripted. But you sense the possibility of a more raw and fleshed out story lurking beneath the surface that has been overlooked to create a more positive, consumer driven film, that will be pleasing and lapped up by thousands.
At the rise of their success, it offers the bare minimum of what you would expect, and possibly in years time those keener for a more trivial and less redundant telling of this superstar boy band will be treated to the likes of “The Real Story behind One Direction” on the Bio channel, but evidently, and unsurprisingly, that’s not the goal the studio aimed for.
This is Us is in no regard a terrible film, it snuck in a few adolescent laughs, great live performances, and a collection of key, heartfelt moments from the exceptionally talented stars. But, just like the women (and I am sure some men) screamed the utmost satisfaction throughout the entirety of running time as the UK Boy Band becomes idolised on screen, it also let out its own scream, drowned out by others, flying low under the radar. It screamed cash in on the fans. Which it will accomplish. But you are left with the sneaking suspicion that This is Us is really not them.