With all due respect to the artist in question, if the central treatise was based entirely on the recent pandemic alone, it would make for riveting viewing. That the artist can put her narrative into the realm of the pandemic makes it essential viewing, and not just for fans of Charli XCX’s music. Those who bought her records will enjoy watching her in her creative haven, as I enjoyed watching Paul McCartney composing the theme tune to Get Back in the Peter Jackson series, but the film will also draw in viewers searching to compare notes on how one person made it through the pandemic with both their integrity and intelligence intact. It’s easy to forget the recent horrors of the pandemic – the invasion of Ukraine is taking much of our emotional attention – but this documentary shows what men and women are capable of if they put their minds to it.
The film begins by reminding viewers of Charli XCX‘s myriad achievements, from the barrelling ‘Boom Clap’ to more recent offerings of sugar-coated pop that flaunted the UK with some welcome, and unwelcome, aplomb. But regardless of the art in question, the artist is never anything less than fascinating, and the soundtrack does hold some impressive tunes, which would be hard to say about a film about One Direction.
Instead, the film focuses on the central character deeply lonely at a time when she is unable to meet up with her loved ones beyond the realms of a computer screen. Despair soaks the picture, and the singer feels frustrated many times during the course of the documentary, wishing for the day she can return to the world at large to showcase her art as it’s meant to be heard: live on stage.
Charli XCX is still in her 20s, and the imposed isolation closes in on her, as she prepares to piece together another work in the space of 40 days. The work is prompted by a near maniacal desire to create something out of nothing, which is why she involves so many to chip ideas on an online platform. The work is punctuated by a collection of blinding silhouettes, edited with great precision, echoing the urgency and the beats of the live song set. Fuelled by rock energy, the film blasts along, never ceasing for a second, ably capturing the essence of youth it aches to invoke.
The film comes hot on the heels of Get Back, and although it’s not in the same league as the sprawling Beatle anthology, Charli XCX: Alone Together is a more contemporary work, both in sound and aesthete — not forgetting the prescient nature of the project, produced during the height of the recent pandemic. And unlike the herculean Get Back, Charli XCX: Alone Together cuts a more reasonable runtime, lasting little more than an hour, making it that bit easier for novices to stick their teeth into.
Because it’s definitely worth investing in, not only to become more acquainted with her work but as a way of applauding everyone for sticking it out over two increasingly difficult years. Cinema is meant to be a celebration of the values spearheaded by the human spirit, and this does just that, and then some.