Music Documentary Review: IDLES’ ‘Don’t Go Gentle’ Is A Heart-warming And Sincere Portrait Of Fan Community

Still from the film, credit: Lindsay Melbourne

“People need inclusivity, and they need community, and they need a feeling of acceptance through imperfection,” frontman Joe Talbot tells the camera. Don’t Go Gentle takes us through a celebration of fandom and the importance of music in our lives.

IDLES have built a strong fan community finding solstice in their vulnerability since releasing debut album Brutalism in 2017, which is captured throughout the film.

Don’t Go Gentle details the history of IDLES, from forming in Bristol and taking us through all the highs and lows. Directed by Mark Archer, the film documents the band’s rise to fame and their journey into the hearts of fans worldwide. Detailing the band’s life on the road, from snoring in vans during long road journeys and juggling fruit backstage, Don’t Go Gentle presents IDLES at full vulnerability. The raw and unfiltered interpersonal relationships between members shows incredible highs and heart-breaking lows, touching on imperfection, grief, and family.

The film truly shines when highlighting the heart-warming and organic community of the AF Gang.

Created on Facebook by photographer Lindsay Melbourne in 2017, the AF Gang now grown to 30 thousand members. A vibrant online community sharing their lives with each other. “It’s the first time I really felt like I belonged to something,” Melbourne reflects. For AF Gang members they managed to create a community with each other sharing stories they haven’t been able to with others in their life. She recalls a story of a young woman who’d lost her husband finding comfort in the group, showing how important compassion and community are in our lives. The AF Gang is really the crux of the film and what separates the band from their contemporaries, “they [IDLES] involved everyone and made everyone ride not their wave but what feels like our wave,” one fan tells the camera earnestly.

Also featuring is Radio 6 DJ Steve Lamacq who details how he saw something special in the IDLES’ sincerity, “All we needed was brutal honestly from an angry man in Bristol,” he recounts. Unfiltered emotion and brutal honesty underpin their music welcoming fans into a community of people that are all imperfect. Felix White of The Maccabees and YALA Records appears as well, reflecting on his work with the band as well as bringing them on The Maccabees’ final tour.

Acceptance through imperfection is another key message to the fan community. What is most striking is the authenticity of those involved, both in the band and members of the fan community. Forming at a time where most bands “looked good but sounded boring,” IDLES wanted to show authenticity through their music. Talbot recalls, “The whole reason for me starting this band is because I was fucking bored of being lied to.”

Creating community during times of disillusion is a powerful thing and it’s what turns a band’s following into a movement. Don’t Go Gentle highlights how for IDLES, there’s strength in embracing compassion and vulnerability.

Don’t Go Gentle will be released in UK cinemas from 2nd July and available to stream from 6th August via Doc’n’Roll Festival.

Words by Brenna Cooper

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