Springsteen & I is a unique music documentary highlighting the people that are most important to an artist that has sustained such a prolific career of more than 40 years. It is by no means a biography of Bruce Springsteen’s life and legacy. Instead, it sets the camera on the power behind the Boss: the fans. The film is entirely constructed from footage sent in by Springsteen admirers around the world that recalls Kevin MacDonald’s user-generated time capsule Life in a Day (2011). It is of no surprise that Ridley Scott and his production team is behind this film as well.
The homemade tributes are edited together smartly to form a clever linear pattern giving narrative sense to a film without a plot. Each video is edited to the next, matching up similarly shared experiences and joined by some bootleg archive footage performances. Key examples are a montage of fans explaining the Boss in three words as well as the seemingly endless scene of fans saying thank you to Springsteen. The film, however, is not all Springsteen worship as some critics have suggested. The documentary introduces the husband of a fan who clearly expresses his distaste for Bruce Springsteen’s music. The only reason he travels around the world to see the New Jersey rocker is because his wife is a huge admirer. This sequence is incredibly funny and reminds everyone to spare a thought for the person they bring along to a gig let alone a monstrous 3-hour plus Springsteen show. I was suddenly very aware of my girlfriend sat next to me in the cinema after dragging her to Poole to see the film. The staunch husband shows the same dedication and love the fans have been giving to Springsteen for four decades but instead his love and dedication is directed towards his wife.
Although the film does show some incredibly hardcore fans who will not let their children listen to anything but the Springsteen catalogue, the film’s finer moments are not these. Nor are they the girl replicating the Courtney Cox appearance in the “Dancing in the Dark” music video or the super fans with every Springsteen single since “Born to Run”. Instead, the film really excels when it focuses on the more overlooked individuals. Examples include the working man who got upgraded by Springsteen’s people from the back row to front row and the couple who had never been to a gig due to financial difficulties yet still have a big love for the Boss’s music, charmingly shown by them dancing in the kitchen together to “Radio Nowhere”. Such moments are the highlight of the film and reveal the true diversity amongst the Boss’s disciples regardless of how many times they have seen him or even met him. Springsteen’s music is summed up in these few clips and brilliantly captured by the filmmakers: blue-collar citizens living happy and hard working lives.
Springsteen & I does not need to be sold to Springsteen devotees; they will unquestionably love it. Those who should see this are the people who love music or even the feeling of having someone make such an impact on your life. That feeling of having someone to look up to and feel a connection with varies from person to person. It could be The Beatles, Elvis, The Rolling Stones, 2Pac, Mozart. Even One Direction. That understanding of having someone you connect with so deeply will enhance your perception of Springsteen & I as the documentary focuses on the complete inspiration, hope and passion fans have gathered from Springsteen’s music. Much like a Springsteen gig, the film is an energetic, touching and personal experience that leaves you helpless trying not to walk away feeling pumped, wanting denim and to sing “Born in the USA” as loud as you can.