REVIEW: One Direction’s “This Is Us”

August 16, 2013


The world’s biggest boy band gets personal in charming feature début

-Shelley DeHekker


If you’ve ever wanted to get up close and personal like never before with the boys of One Direction, your chance is coming very  soon. Their first feature-length film, One Direction: This Is Us, is an absolute treat – a fast-paced 75 minute exclusive insight into the whirlwind experience of being part of the world’s biggest boy band. Where else can you sneak into the boys’ dressing room without getting caught? Or be a fly on the wall at an intimate fireside conversation to find out if they think they’ll still be friends years from now? This Is Us is basically your all-access pass to becoming the unofficial sixth member of One Direction and experiencing everything alongside them firsthand. And it’s most definitely a ride worth taking.

Beginning with their X Factor UK days in 2010, viewers are given glimpses into the boys’ thoughts on their individual auditions as well as the torrent of success the group achieved on the show (despite coming in 3rd). A narrative, personal tone is established for the film before we’re taken along 1D’s whirlwind launch to fame following X Factor. It all leads up to the main event – the mania of their Take Me Home Tour, the worldwide venture that touches down on such renowned places as London’s 02 Arena and NYC’s Madison Square Garden. And that’s where the real fun begins.

Sure, the flashing lights and can’t-stop-won’t-stop glamour of touring is interesting enough, but it’s the behind-the-scenes action that steals the show. This Is Us captures those moments backstage that demonstrate why the world is so enamored by the quintet. Nowhere else will you get to witness Niall pushing Harry around in a recycling bin, the entire band stealing golf carts to evade security mere minutes before they’re due on stage, and even a hilarious choreography session where the boys (who are very vocal about their lack of dancing skills) decide to take things into their own hands. Highly entertaining, to say the least.

But it’s not all fun and games 24/7 for the band, and getting to experience their lives on the road so up-close-and-personal means witnessing the less desirable aspects, too – such as one member being woken up in the middle of the night to record vocals for their upcoming album, and the intensity of what a seemingly harmless day shopping brings. It’s a vivid depiction of the hard work the band puts in every day that can sometimes be overlooked in the scheme of things – and adds a well-rounded touch to the emotional component of the film.

We get to see heartfelt one-on-one conversations between the guys, which showcase them in ways that could never be achieved through an interview. We find out which guy recorded “What Makes You Beautiful” in his boxers, and we even get to be taken home by the boys, seeing the place that – for one member – is the only thing in his life “that hasn’t changed”. It’s moments like these that the intention of the film rings clear – to prove (successfully) that the five members of One Direction are genuine, good guys from normal backgrounds who simply have abnormal jobs.

This Is Us undoubtedly achieves what it’s meant to do, which is to treat fans to intimate encounters with the boys that they may otherwise never have the chance to see – all while seamlessly incorporating live footage from the Take Me Home Tour’s stop in London (just in case you doubted their singing abilities). Despite the concert clips, This Is Us is truly a documentary; the live performances never once feel overdone, nor do they overshadow what fans really what to see – the personal sides to Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik. This notable narrative set-up can be attributed to the talents behind the camera: director Morgan Spurlock, a man best known for his Oscar-nominated docudrama Super Size Me. Spurlock does an excellent job of making the film feel completely unscripted, as well as giving viewers a sense of One Direction’s real relationship with one another.

While it would’ve been nice to see an interview of all five members together – and perhaps even delve into the grittier, more negative aspects of their lives, This Is Us is nonetheless charming, witty and funny all at once – basically your dream boy, but showcased as five in a movie. It can’t get much better than that. If you’re not convinced already, the film proves that Harry, Niall, Liam, Louis and Zayn genuinely are fun-loving, energetic, creative, really nice guys – giving the future candidates of pop culture royalty a lot to live up to. Louis adds a nice touch by describing just how thankful he is that one of them isn’t “an absolute a**”. The film is a pop culture dream.

One Direction is unlike any pop phenomenon we’ve seen in a number of ways, and after watching the film, my conclusion is that such dissimilarity is due to how abnormally normal they are. The film showcases on a cinematic scale exactly what the title sets out to prove: This Is Us. And just what is that? The simple reason that One Direction’s fans love them so much – they’re a five-piece band that are unashamedly themselves both on-stage and off. Refreshing, inspiring and absolutely worthy of a flick that’s a must-see for pop culture fans (and with the perfect balance of funny, heartfelt and teasing moments to please moms, dads and fangirls alike). After all, what do One Direction want to be remembered as? “The boy band who…just had fun, were just normal guys – but terrible, terrible dancers.”

I’d say they’ll achieve that just fine. But you’ll have to watch the film to decide for yourself.

This Is Us hits theaters August 29th in the UK and August 30th in the US.

Keep up with WeKnowTheDJ’s Shelley on Twitter and Instagram: @shelleydehekker

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