“I know they love me. Even though they don’t know me, I know they love me,” says a teenage girl, one of millions that worship the pop boy band One Direction. For these girls, Zayn, Harry, Liam, Niall and Louis might as well be gods. “They say what we want to hear and what no one say to us,” confesses another fan.
Chances are, some of you must be sick with their hit songs “One Thing”, “What Makes You Beautiful” or “Live While We’re Young” playing non-stop on your local radios or music TV channels. With the massive popularity that the boys have been enjoying for the last two or three years, it’s mind-blowing to know that they didn’t even know one another three years ago. Back in 2010, all five boys auditioned as solo singers on The X Factor, and failed. But show judge Simon Cowell put them together and made them perform as a group. Again, they failed to win the golden prize, finishing in the third place. Yet in that short amount of time, the boys had garnered a liege of devoted, screaming fans that made it their mission in life to make sure the world knows about these five boys. With the aid of social media, that didn’t take long.
And the rest is history.
Really. One Direction: This Is Us is barely a documentary, it feels more like a lengthy promotional video made exclusively to entertain the fans. Well, to be fair, it is a concert movie, albeit the slightly grand yet misleading ‘This Is Us’ title. Director Morgan Spurlock is known for his Oscar-nominated work Super Size Me and also other documentaries such as Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. It was quite an odd pairing between him and One Direction, and as if to confirm that, this time Spurlock stays off-camera at all times, unlike in his other works.
Playing like an anonymously-directed feature, the movie shows the lives of the One Direction members off-stage during their Take Me Home Tour interspersed with the on-stage performances of their hit songs during one of the sell-out concerts at O2 Arena in London. The boys are rowdy, playful, acting like normal boys having the time of their lives, only they have massive stadiums as their playground and hordes of girls ready to scream on cue. The love affair seems to be mutual, with the boys mentioning time and time again how grateful they are to have such dedicated fans.
A few footages breathe some life into the movie, little pieces of some of the parents sharing their feelings about their children’s success, and also anecdotes about Harry when he used to work in a bakery for two and a half years before catapulting to stardom. But for most of the time, the movie is what it is, showing little substance and displaying bright, squeaky-clean portrayals of the boys. No scandals, no dirt, no real heartfelt talks. Well, there are bits of the latter, mostly coming from Liam and Harry, which are definitely welcome.
However, despite all that, the movie is actually quite enjoyable. It doesn’t try to be something it isn’t, it stays positive the whole way, and kind of works. It’s easy to fall for the charms of these young men, and sometimes it is even easy to relate to them. Like Zayn mentions in the beginning of the movie, they come from a normal, working middle-class background and they know perfectly well that they are lucky to be where they are right now. They know perfectly well that fame can go away as easily as it comes and they mention multiple times how they don’t want to be that easily dismissed and forgotten like so many other groups before them. And boy how they work hard to make sure of that.
One of the most amusing moments is when Liam tells Louis that he doesn’t expect Japan to be as cold as it is. He thought Japan is one of those countries that stay warm the whole year, “like Australia,” he says. These boys are not unlike others their age, they just happen to be lucky (or unlucky) enough to have the abnormal kind of job that they do. They work extremely hard to stay where they are, and at the same time they are just trying to have fun and take it all in, make the most of it, like anyone should.