Jacob Hatley’s documentary about Levon Helm, one of the founding members of The Band, is a bit of gritty gossamer.
Sounds like a paradox?
The film is a warm tribute that gives us glimpses of Helm in his later days working on his first studio album in many years and playing for fans who will pay to see him perform (mostly) at his farm in Woodstock, NY, juxtaposed with interviews and archival elements that suggest his rough and tumble past on the road.
There are hints at unresolved tensions and regrets, but Helm does not directly address those issues and challenges with collaborators, money, cancer, and addiction.
The film doesn’t provide many insights into who Levon Helm was beyond a musician who liked to jam and liked to party as long as he could manage both, but the larger issues loom large at the interstices of the film seemingly just off camera or nearly out of earshot, as themes we reach for but never quite grasp.
There are tender moments, evocative memories, but few insights.
For diehard fans, the private moments are likely enough. For the rest of us, it is hard not to want a little more, something that lends deeper context to the grit and a stronger supportive texture than the gossamer.