Love & Mercy's success is owed to the work of Cusack and Dano. Both capture different aspects of Brian's psyche at intrinsic moments in his life. Dano perhaps has the edge, delivering a full-throttle turn that sees him with meaty material to work with. In the modern day scenes, Cusack shares the workload with Banks, who steals much of the focus.
It's a refreshing rarity for a female character in a male-led film to have such impact. The narrative is split evenly between the dual timelines, the script utilising the symmetry in Brian's life to make the transitions seem natural rather than irksome. It allows for the issues Brian faces in his latter life - a struggle to find his voice and escape the torment of a overwhelming figure - to mirror similar difficulties faced in his earlier life when he was finding his voice. The powerful drama is punctuated with brief moments of humour and tenderness, which brings added authenticity and heart to the film. That said, unlike other biopics, Love & Mercy never shies away from the harsher aspects of Brian's life. In fact, it pushes them into focus, recording with care and honestly the unpredictable labour of love creativity can be and, perhaps most importantly, how crucial it is for mental illness to be managed. Love & Mercy is a quiet revelation - an unconventional biopic that's masterfully executed and fascinating to watch.
This review was originally published as part of our coverage of the 2015 Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Jamie Neish | @EmptyScreens