Film Review: Austin To Boston [BFI London Film Festival 2014]

on Sunday, October 26, 2014
Words: Saam Das

Readers of this website are likely to be familiar with London-based Communion Records, the folk-led club night and label that propelled the early careers of the likes of Laura Marling and Daughter. Documentary 'Austin To Boston' follows the journey of four acts from the Communion roster on their unique tour of America, which saw them cover three thousand miles in five vintage VW camper vans.

Kicking off from their final night at Austin's SXSW festival, we follow Bear's Den, The Staves, Nathaniel Rateliff, and current UK #1 album holder Ben Howard in their cramped vehicles. The bands are also joined by various members of the extended Communion family, notably co-founder Ben Lovett and driver-turned-film-narrator Gil Landry - both musicians in their own right, with Mumford & Sons and Old Crow Medicine Show respectively.

The band of brothers and sisters develop a sense of oft-amusing camaraderie across the tour, while delivering a series of hypnotic performances, both captured engagingly by director James Marcus Haney. Unfortunately, there's not a huge amount of depth to 'Austin To Boston', with Nathaniel Rateliff being the only artist with whom we can truly feel a connection - outside of the musical environment, at least. He offers heartfelt thoughts about his family and wider life, which are subsequently reflected in his dark songwriting.

There's a certain rustic charm to 'Austin To Boston', particularly when the footage becomes somewhat grainy, although transitioning between this and the clarity with which the wonderful live performances are shot becomes jarring. Considering the relatively short running time of 72 minutes, it's difficult not to think that we could have been offered more of an insight into the bands or even more of the beautiful folk music. Nonetheless, 'Austin To Boston' offers a rare portrait of a special tour.


'Austin To Boston' premiered in the UK at the 58th BFI London Film Festival. Find more info at

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