Songwriter review: portrait of a self-confessed beige person

Three albums in and unthinkable financial success later, it was only a matter of time until someone made a film about Ed Sheeran, a musician loved and loathed seemingly in equal measure. Met with raised eyebrows and silent scepticism when announced as the Special Gala for the 2018 Berlin Film Festival, Songwriter follows Sheeran behind the scenes in the lead-up to the release of latest LP Divide, the documentary being shot by director, producer, editor – and incidentally Sheeran’s own cousin – Murray Cummings.

“I feel like there’s been a lot of content about him as a performer but not about the other side, as a songwriter. So I wanted to focus on that”, Cummings explained at the film’s Berlinale press conference.  Sheeran’s fame has been cyclically hyped and trashed over the past few years – lest we forget his Game of Thrones cameo – but there’s none of that in Songwriter; no live shows, no talk shows, no show-off “I’m just a normal guy” candid interviews. He’s just writing songs that have gone on to dominate charts all over the world for months on end (though perhaps this is the ultimate “normal guy” routine?).

Cummings began filming his cousin in 2008 and edited the film for two years straight. On the tour bus, across the seas and back in his hometown of Suffolk, the director sits in as Sheeran shapes Divide from start to finish. It’s a relaxing and easy watch, soundtracked by endless humming and strumming.

For an album that achieved such explosive success, the illustrative documentary is surprisingly calm. As promised, the focus remains on the music. Sheeran is always writing and ticking along, a pleasant smile on his face as long as he has a guitar in hand. The film flows with the ease with which Sheeran writes. “I’m not worried about the album anymore”, he tells his cousin. As he riffs around ‘Galway Girl’, which went on to reach over 100 million streams, it’s easy to see why.

Read the full review on the Independent

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