Love & Mercy

 (6,132)7.42 h 1 min2015X-RayPG-13
John Cusack and Paul Dano star as Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson in "the best musical biopic in decades" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE). Also starring Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti.
Elizabeth BanksJohn CusackPaul Dano
DramaArts, Entertainment, and Culture
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Bill PohladClaire Rudnick PolsteinJohn WellsBrian Wilson
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
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4.3 out of 5 stars

6132 global ratings

  1. 59% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 23% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 11% of reviews have 3 stars
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  5. 4% of reviews have 1 stars

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Top reviews from the United States

Darren O'NeillReviewed in the United States on September 11, 2015
5.0 out of 5 starsEmotional Journey Through The Life Of A Troubled Musical Genius
I am very biased when it comes to the Beach Boys. I discovered their music when I was very young and went to see them in concert when I was 10 years old as the first concert I really wanted to attend. It happened to be at a venue with a hotel attached and the next morning I was up very early and went down to play Pac-Man before my parents woke up. It was a sit-down machine that had controls on both sides and a guy came up and asked if he could play, he put down a bunch of quarters and I looked up and noticed it was Bruce Johnston, the guy that replaced Brian. After a bit some of the other guys came to get Bruce and asked how I liked the show. I was totally in awe.

While I have never had a chance to meet Brian Wilson his music has always had an impact on my life. I loved the good-times songs but I also loved the Pet Sounds sound just as much as I loved the Beatles from an early age. I had read about Brian's breakdown and bits and pieces of the story on his climb out of depression into a situation that might have been even worse with Dr. Euguene Landy controlling his life and over-medicating him.

This movie covers the dark, trying times of Brian Wilson interweaving two periods of his life together with excellent results. Paul Dano gives an incredible look into the young Brian and John Cusak exceeded my expectations as the older Brian. You get to see scenes of Brian in the recording studio that are nothing short of breathtaking as you get an idea of what his process was of getting the music out of his head and onto magnetic tape.

The story presented, I believe, does an excellent job of portraying Brian's descent into his mental issues as a young man without going over the top. Some people may find a lot of the movie hard to watch as so much of the Beach Boys music is about happy sun-filled days, girls and fast cars and Brian's life was anything but happy and carefree. Paul Giamatti portrays Dr. Landy in such a way that you know he's the bad guy from the moment he walks onto the screen.

Elizabeth Banks plays Melinda Ledbetter, the woman that Brian would fall in love with and the one that would be instrumental at getting him out of the controlling situation he was in. It is through her eyes we see the older Brian and get perspective on what he has had to endure.

There are scenes that will make you cringe as you watch them with Brian being abused both verbally and physically by his father and then Dr. Landy, the man he thought was trying to help him. When John Cusak, as the older Brian, tells the story of how his hearing in one ear is almost gone because his dad used to hit him so hard in such a matter-of-fact way it is truly heartbreaking. The movie ends with concert footage of Brian Wilson from the present day singing his song "Love and Mercy" which was the perfect way to end it.

Overall I thought this was a near-perfect movie about Brian Wilson. If you're looking for a movie full of girls and beach scenes you'll want to look elsewhere but if you are willing to delve into the darker side of a musical genius you will be rewarded.

After seeing this movie all I wanted to do was send some good thoughts and vibrations out to Brian Wilson. I doubt he'll ever read this review but on the off chance I just want to say thank you, brother, for the music and we love you!
297 people found this helpful
JPReviewed in the United States on April 18, 2019
5.0 out of 5 starsBlew me away how well done this movie was
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I had known the story of Brian Wilson but didn't know the full extent of it until I saw this movie. From a technical aspect, Love and Mercy presented Wilson's musical genius and metal issues in ways that I don't think have been captured on film before. The way they were presented gave a grounded, relatable feel to the movie.

I was a bit nervous going into his movie with the knowledge that it takes place in two time periods with two different actors portraying Wilson. A lot of times this can derail of movie and take the audience out of it. I was blown away how well with was done in the movie and the switch between time periods were seemless.

Extra points go to Paul Dano for nailing Wilson's look, mannerisms, and voice (yes, that's Paul signing in parts of the movie)! WOW!
8 people found this helpful
ZephyrReviewed in the United States on May 26, 2020
5.0 out of 5 starsAn Awakening
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If this story is accurate, all of Heaven and Earth owe a debt of gratitude to Melinda Wilson and to Carl Wilson for believing in her and Brian. It seems to me that Heavenly bodies speak through Brian, and Earthly bodies remember Heaven through Brian's ability to communicate the messages that speak to our souls. It's not always easy being the messenger apparently, but I for one, am grateful. A special "gift" of instinct or sight (or in Brian's case, sound) isn't always easy to live with, as was brilliantly shown in this film.

I guess that's not a movie "review" per se, but I hope it will be interpreted as a compliment since it's rare that a film moves me in such a way that makes me truly pensive about the wild ride of life and it's mysteries.

Excellent work by the entire cast and support crew.
5 people found this helpful
Mark S. CrawfordReviewed in the United States on January 16, 2018
3.0 out of 5 starsFelt the Love, then needed Mercy
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As amply pointed out in many reviews, this film is like two movies in one. In the first “movie” we get to see the young and talented Brian Wilson, portrayed very convincingly by Paul Dano. In my opinion – as a musician and collector of music related bio-pics – Dano is involved with some of the most convincing scenes of recreated music performances on film. I don’t know if the studio scenes, and other performance scenes, were performed live on tape by real musicians, but it sure comes across that way. One of my pet peeves is to see music related movies with actors who obviously are not only not playing their instrument, but can’t even fake it with the music. Anyway, I digress . . . the studio scenes were very authentic.

The second “movie” in this film is of Brian Wilson and his challenges with mental health. In no way should we demean those that suffer with these types of issues, but at the same time this would seem like a “tricky” subject to include in a film. From an entertainment standpoint, there should be a “payoff” for taking the viewer through this experience. To that end, John Cusack is a fine actor, but I didn’t buy him in this role. Also a challenge to believe was character actor Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of the therapist. Very close to the release of this movie was “Straight Out of Compton” in which Giamatti had a major role. I remember thinking at the time that this guy must be making the bio-pic rounds, and my “suspension of reality” while watching this film was distracted. Bottom-line, the pacing of this second “movie” seemed inconsistent and cliché.

Brian Wilson fans will probably appreciate this film more than the casual viewer. With that said, it’s worth a view, if nothing else, for the music and Paul Dano’s portrayal. I felt the Love during the first half of this film, but needed some Mercy during the second half!
9 people found this helpful
WAReviewed in the United States on March 1, 2020
5.0 out of 5 starsThe physical and spiritual balance of mental illness
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While watching this movie, I remembered hearing on the news that his doctor was ordered to stay away from him. And, this is the wonderful back story. I didn't know what to expect. I decided to watch for just a few minutes. This story draws you in. It is my belief that anyone diagnosed "mentally ill" should have a licensed medical doctor and a licensed spiritual doctor to offer the balance between both worlds. Focusing on one side without acknowledging the other side, results in catastrophic imbalance. Throughout the movie you could clearly see when many of Brian's misunderstood moments were actually a part of the raw genius. SPOILER ALERT: The dinner table scene when the forks are clinking is one example of the need to balance both worlds. For in the madness of the clinking, there was music dying to be heard.

This movie was also touching on a personal level because a few years ago, I worked with someone similar to Brian. A brilliant man that introduced me and my family to his family. After the friendship developed, it was apparent that his mother was the controlling force that didn't want him to get close to anyone but, her. He was in his 40s at that time. In the workforce and on the job, he was admired. He trained the new hires. His love of people was special, almost child like which made him endearing. He was a model employee. At work, he was in his element. Sometimes brutally honest like a child without malicious intent.

I had the privilege of spending a week with him and his father on their farm in North Dakota. As a detailed teacher, he taught me how to hunt pheasants. I couldn't see myself hurting them. He took the gun and in his demonstration, got three in less than five minutes. He picked them up and stuck their heads in his two coat pockets. The other one he carried. I learned a lot about hunting during that week. Unfortunately, whenever his mother would stop by, his entire demeanor changed. She was the authoritarian on his medication and often would act like Dr. Eugene which was shocking. I didn't know he was taking medication until one day she interrogated me about whether or not he was taking it. I let his mother know that i was not her son and her tone was extremely disrespectful. She couldn't bully me. As a result, she pressured him to break off the friendship.

His father shared with me that when he was a little boy, his mother left them. He grieved for her and was later diagnosed as mentally ill. When he was a teen, she returned home. It was humbling for me to listen as he spoke about his childhood. I made him realize that the stress of losing his mother attributed to his way of coping. As an adult and Like Brian, he would often say (while on the farm), how he wanted to get away from his mother and just be free. With a controlling / bullying mother, I made sure to let him know that our door is open to him anytime he wants.

This movie beautifully captured the grace someone on the outside can extend to someone in such a controlling and abusive environment. The abuser hates outsiders because of their fear of being exposed. Many times, the abused will see a light in the person on the outside. That light is truly the end of the tunnel and all they need to do is walk through. Love and Mercy, was offered on Amazon Prime. I was so engrossed in it, I'm purchasing it for my library. I would recommend this movie.
One person found this helpful
Underground RebornReviewed in the United States on January 22, 2016
5.0 out of 5 starsThere are Good Vibrations here.
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I am a huge music fan and The Beach Boys are one of my all time favorite bands. When I heard that there was going to be a biopic about Brian Wilson, I was in like flint. After the seeing the trailers and a performance that I never would have excepted from John Cussak, Love & Mercy turned out to be one of the best films I had seen in 2015.

I had known about the trials and tribulations of Brian Wilson but, to finally see it in a story form it was such an engaging film. What stands out about this film is the fact that it is two separate stories being told. We see the Brian Wilson in the 1960s played beautiful by Paul Dano as Brian records one of the legendary albums in all of music. We also see Brian Wilson in the 1980s coping with his illness and how his doctor/guardian keeps him under his thumb and how he tries to fall in love again and rejoin the world that seems to have abandoned him. The film is filled with a lot of emotions and even some discomforting moments. The acting of the entire cast is so beautiful you can't look away and not appreciate a story about one of the most ingenious minds in all of music. How this film got completely snubbed at this year's Oscars makes no sense to me.

If you a film fan, a Beach Boys fan, a John Cussak fan or all 3 this is a movie that you will love and want to see many times after. I would personally hope that more music biopics are brought to the film going public soon because there are so many more stories to be told.
8 people found this helpful
R2Reviewed in the United States on September 23, 2015
4.0 out of 5 starsWatch it, buy it, enjoy it!
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This is a great film for anyone interested in Brian Wilson, whether you are a fan or not. It is very specifically focused on two eras in Wilson's life: mid-60s Pet Sounds/Smile (portrayed by Paul Dano), and late-80s Landy/first solo album (portrayed by John Cusack). The two time periods do not ever co-exist within the film except for one interpretation-hallucination scene towards the end. It is historically accurate from biographical accounts but it is presented in a way that you kind of get an idea of what Brian was feeling, seeing, hearing. It does jump back and forth between the two periods semi-frequently, and I have read this has caused some confusion amongst some viewers. Personally, I was able to follow along quite easily because I knew Brian's story before seeing this film. But even for someone not familiar with him, a viewer can pretty easily tell which time period is being portrayed simply by styles and sets (the 60s was vastly different looking from the 80s).

The only few, small things I have negative to say about the film are how they portrayed Murray Wilson (Brian's father), and some of the timelines aren't exactly right - but close enough to get the point across.

Murray Wilson is seen in the film as a very stern and abusive father, still very irked from The Beach Boys firing him as their manager and expanding their musical influences. While that really happened, I felt most of his character (based on the many biographies I've read) was over the top. Murray was a very competitive person, and he tried to make his sons competitive too (thus creating The Sunrays to compete with The Beach Boys' squeaky clean formula of the early 60s), but he was never vengeful towards them. They also feature a scene in which it is interpreted very easily by the viewer that Brian's deafness in an ear was caused by child abuse/slap from his father at a young age. While that has been speculated a few times by some biographies, it's never really been a proven fact. He could have just as easily injured himself, or maybe even had a physical problem that caused it. In summary, I think the character of Murray in the film doesn't show any love, and that just wasn't true of him - no matter how stern he really was or wasn't.

Timelines: Some of the timelines kind of break historical records, and I am sure this is for the purposes of dramatizing the film. For example, they suggest Brian started work on Good Vibrations as a direct response to the critical flop of Pet Sounds. In fact, Good Vibrations was being worked on as the album was being put together, and as Brian himself has mentioned before, was actually meant for release as part of Pet Sounds. But with the record company pushing the release of new (overdue) material and Brian not yet satisfied with the pieces of Good Vibrations, it got left off the album. They released it as a desperation single in advance of Smile to try and bring The Beach Boys back onto the charts once more - and that it did...their #1 best selling single ever.

Other than those few things, I think the film is a great watch and artistic vision of one of the greatest musical composer's life we will ever see. Watch it, buy it, enjoy it!
5 people found this helpful
MeReviewed in the United States on September 19, 2015
5.0 out of 5 starsFor Lovers of Music and the Human Spirit
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Having researched a fair amount about Brian Wilson, there wasn’t much out there that was going to surprise me. Yet that didn’t get in the way of enjoying this film’s incredible authenticity and appreciating the effort the producers, directors and cast went through to portray Brian’s story accurately. And because I’d seen the film three times in the theater, the best part of this Blu-Ray/DVD for me is the featurette “A-Side/B-Side: Portraying the Life of Brian Wilson.” This ~20-minute segment goes beyond the basics, showing the incredible efforts the producers and directors made to accurately reflect the eras portrayed in the film - and why it actually helped to have two distinct actors portraying Brian Wilson (because he basically was two distinct people during those periods). It’s an enlightening piece, with footage of the early Beach Boys and Wrecking Crew I’d yet to discover. From the use of the exact studio where Pet Sounds was (mostly) recorded, to (Brian’s long-time band member and musical secretary) Darian Sahanaja‘s efforts to educate the actors on The Beach Boys’ mannerisms and harmonies, as well as Darian’s insistence to bring in outstanding session musicians to recreate the Pet Sounds music (much like Brian Wilson did himself, 50 years ago). The people they brought in to accurately convey his story were the ones that lived part (or all) of it themselves - including long-time Brian Wilson engineer/producer Mark Linett, and, of course, Brian and Melinda Wilson.

The featurette and the film deliver the passion that is necessary to do justice to America’s most influential musician over the last 50 years. If you love music, and/or the human spirit at its best, give this a look and listen – you will surely appreciate it.
24 people found this helpful
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