Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: Last Days Here (Don Argott and Demian Fenton, 2012)

Last Days Here, directed by Don Argott and Demian Fenton, focuses on Bobby Liebling, the frontman for Virginian cult metal band, Pentagram. As one of the pioneers of doom metal, they founded in 1971. Since then, Bobby has remained the band’s songwriter and lead singer, but a debilitating decade-spanning drug addiction (to everything) has resulted in sporadic creativity and a high rotation of disgruntled band members. Bobby’s once-promising career has been marred by his addiction, which has robbed him of every opportunity his talents could have built for the band. While the documentary is a little flabby and thin on material documenting Pentagram’s peak years – they were an underground sensation in the 70’s, but their first album wasn’t recorded until 1985 - it makes for an inspiring story of overcoming very serious hurdles to recapture a lost dream.

Much of the film is set in the present day – a shooting period that began in 2007 – with Bobby living in his parent’s basement, and doing little but indulging in a concoction of hard drugs. He is a mess. He has hit rock bottom and many believe his death is not far away. This footage, which is not shy of capturing him at his lowest, is difficult to watch. He is awfully thin and believes that he has parasites beneath his skin, which he relentlessly picks at. Bobby’s close friend and manager, Sean “Pellet” Pelletier, became a fan of Pentagram ever since one of their albums, which he blindly picked up at a record sale, completely changed his life. He decides that he wants to help Bobby overcome his addiction, resurrect his health and his passion and return to the stage while he still has the chance.

The filmmakers talk with Bobby’s parents, who are adamant that their son has more to offer, but are seemingly helpless at persevering him to clean up his life, as well as several former band members who are being considered for Pellet’s reunion tour and album. They reflect on their experiences with Bobby, and it is unfortunate to learn that most of them aren’t flattering. It is understandable why these guys are reluctant to be involved with someone who is so unreliable. Accompanying these accounts are an assortment of amateur videos of some of the key events, and one particularly unconvincing recreation, where the ragtag youngsters have the chance to rock in the presence of Kiss, but the neighbours of the apartment intervened because of the noise.

On top of the drug-related drama – Bobby eventually spends some time in rehab and tries hard to remain clean – he meets and falls in love a much younger woman named Hallie. But a mere five weeks after he moves in with her she leaves and ends up placing a restraining order on Bobby, who continues to call her incessantly. While Pellet has been working so hard to set up gigs, putting in his own time and money and convincing other financiers to help too, Bobby is falling apart because of this girl and threatening to relapse. It is devastating to watch, and because we predominantly follow Pellet we see just how selfless he was through all of this. He saved Bobby’s life. When we see the tears streaming from his eyes during the closing concert, we feel for the man. Many believed that Bobby still had talent, but it was wasting away. Pellet, as devoted a fan as they come, took on the challenge alone and Bobby Liebling is alive to this day.

My Rating: ★★1/2

Last Days Here is set to have a DVD release this week through Antidote Films.

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