Film Review: Lawrence Of Belgravia [London Film Festival 2011]

on Tuesday, October 25, 2011
'Lawrence Of Belgravia' (UK Release: TBC) // Words: Saam Das

Lawrence Of Belgravia film documentary image

Did you love Felt? Enjoy Denim? Then you may well be rather enamoured with Paul Kelly's documentary exploring the never-ending quest for fame of the lead singer of both those bands, Lawrence Hayward. Unfortunately, for newcomers, like myself, 'Lawrence Of Belgravia' can be more effort than it's worth. For everyone, it's a cautionary tale regarding hopes, dreams and self-worth.

One of the central difficulties in 'Lawrence Of Belgravia' is that the musical history is sparse, and throughout the documentary I felt I was continuously trying to connect the dots - as more dots were added by the minute. Band members' names, for example, would appear without it ever being entirely clear who was being referred to.

Of course, many of those interested in the documentary will have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Lawrence's career. I'm assured that Felt were an iconic cult eighties band, having put out material on Creation and Cherry Aid. Diminishing returns appear to have set in since then with Lawrence's follow-up band Denim, and his latest project, the sleazy electro-pop of Go Kart Mozart - possibly his last push toward the big time.

A bigger disappointment was the lack of in-depth analysis into some of Lawrence's more troubling issues - in particular, his heroin abuse. Perhaps leaving such weighty issues unaddressed adds to Lawrence's enigmatic status. At least on the surface, he shares many similarities to Morrissey - self-indulgent and self-obsessed - but without the success of his Mancunian singularly-named counterpart.

'Lawrence Of Belgravia' goes some way to explaining why Lawrence is a popular figure. He has a naive but admirable dedication to his music (and particularly its artwork) while also often being the source of many a witty line, most notably: "I always knew the internet was crap", upon hearing about how an interviewer from a music website made no money from his venture. (That sounds oddly familiar.)

Lawrence is also quite horrid at times, his forthright view that money and fame are much more important to him than friendships being one such example. Some of this distasteful nature may be attributed to his mental health issues, and his long struggle for success, but it's a tough battle to sympathise with someone who cannot wait to stop travelling on public transport so that he no longer has to see our "pathetic sad faces". Charming.

Lawrence's delusions of grandeur went so far as to extend to the idea of dating Kate Moss. Honestly, I think even I would have had a better chance at the time. Lawrence is certainly lost in his own world. A world that is almost destined to be devoid of commercial success. With 'Lawrence Of Belgravia' Director Paul Kelly has done a passable job at helping outsiders enter that world. Unfortunately, for the casual fan, this journey doesn't quite lead to the insights that it could have done.


'Lawrence Of Belgravia' is screening this week at the 55th BFI London Film Festival 2011.

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