Shane Meadows' latest film, Made of Stone, is a eulogy to the Stone Roses advertised with the warning that it 'will make grown men cry', and from a market sample of two I can testify that it does what it says on the tin.
Admittedly we arrived at the cinema still buzzing from seeing the Roses' blistering set at Finsbury Park the night before and so emotions were running high. Everything about the gig had been amazing, from a crowd that danced and sang along like an ecstatic evangelical church congregation, to a captivating stage set-up with three split screens alternating between ionic Roses art and black-and-white shots of the band live on stage, and, most of all, Ian Brown and co playing like they really were the Resurrection.
Despite having a back catalogue of just two albums almost every song on Saturday would be considered a classic for any other band, and yet they still left out many audience favourites, including two of mine: Sally Cinnamon and What The World Is Waiting For. Fortunately we were lucky enough to hear both at a Heaton Park last year.
A considerable part of Shane Meadows' film is devoted to footage of the Roses performing their greatest hits and he has drawn a pinch of criticism for not delving deeper into the people behind the band. My view, however, is that he got it exactly right. Rather than getting distracted by the gossip he focussed on why the Roses songs and attitude made them the defining band of an era for so many of us, while all the while weaving in a poignant narrative of childhood friendships apparently destroyed by rock success and excess, only to be rekindled after a twenty year hiatus to the evident joy of band members and adoring fans alike.
Thus Made of Stone is a film where tears are induced at the happy, redemptive moments. It didn't take much to get me going – I have always been a sucker for stories of great friendship or kinship broken, from The Straight Story and On Golden Pond, to the break-up of Cloughie and Taylor – football's greatest ever duo (a foretaste of which you get in the remarkable The Damned United). I blame my maternal grandfather. I never knew him, but one of his rules of life is imprinted on my pysche from my mum's retelling – that you should never go to bed angry with someone you love. Measured against this ideal, the thought of not speaking to your lifelong best mates for twenty years would be simply unbearable.
But Made of Stone is all about happy endings, and there are some wonderful parallel vignettes that accompany the core storyline of the band members themselves achieving redemption. My favourite involved a forty-something deputy headteacher, whom we first meet staring disconsolately at the closed doors of Warrington's Parr Hall, inside which one thousand fans are about to see the Stone Roses' first gig in two decades. Head in hands he laments that even offering up his car failed to secure him a wristband from one of the lucky ones.
Fifteen minutes later, however, after we've whizzed through the band's triumphant return, we see him emerging from the gig drenched in sweat and consumed with joy, explaining that 'someone in management' took pity and sneaked him in.
The raw emotion aside, there are plenty of other wonderful moments in Made of Stone, not least an idiosyncratic TV interview from the mid-80s where a youthful Ian Brown and John Squire manage to combine arrogance and innocence as they try to explain the gap between critical acclaim and record sales. Some people might take a long time to fall in love with us, Brown suggest, but in the end they all will. Long pause. “It's inevitable” he swaggers, but then can't supress a shy smile that would grace a toddler.
As Made of Stone cuts to 2012 Meadows shows this apparent hyperbole as prophetic. Two-hundred and twenty five thousand tickets for three Manchester Heaton Park reunion gigs sell out in minutes. Being there myself was one of the highlights of last summer and I think that Made of Stone is going to be the feelgood film of this summer for me and a similar number of other ageing indie fans!
Photo credit: Lee James Brown