Watching Liam Gallagher: As It Was, it’s hard not to be reminded of last year’s fantastic documentary Bros: After the Screaming Stops. In that film, Luke and Matt Goss work through their sibling rivalry and grapple with how fame heightened what was already an explosive relationship. It can be quite silly, with the brothers often talking in cliches, but the end result is a touching look at what it means to be in such an intense situation with the person you’re closest to. And it’s even-handed enough so that the viewer can draw their own conclusions about the Gosses’ relationship.
By comparison, As It Was feels rather one-sided, with entire segments that play as though the younger Gallagher brother just had some grievances to air. Not that this would be a problem if the film weren’t merely an exercise in proving what a swell guy Liam Gallagher is, with an endless parade of friends and family members sitting down to sing his praises. While I don’t doubt what any of them are saying — the film certainly paints an effective picture of a man who’s been humbled somewhat in recent years — it’d be nice if it had anything else to say on top of that.
The documentary follows Gallagher in the aftermath of Oasis‘ breakup as he dives headfirst into starting Beady Eye, goes through a very public divorce, and navigates his broken relationship with his brother and former bandmate Noel. He takes long, expensive trips abroad with elder brother Paul and posts daily booze-filled videos from the swimming pool. It’s here that you’d think As It Was could start to get interesting, but directors Charlie Lightening and Gavin Fitzgerald are all too happy to glide over all this, as though it’s little more than trivial backstory.
In fact, the film has burned through much of its actual story by the half-hour mark, leaving the remaining two acts to simply meander through the last few years of Gallagher’s life. That is all well and good; this section has plenty of the usual ups and downs you’d expect from a rock star biography, but the way the doc presents them is about as standard-issue as you can get. The doc starts to take on a very episodic, shapeless form that makes the 85-minute runtime feel a hell of a lot longer than it actually is.
We get flashes of a making-of doc for Gallagher’s debut solo album and a “life on the road” segment chronicling his extensive world tour, but there’s little insight to be gained from any of it. If you’re after a look into Gallagher’s creative process, similar to what Beyoncé’s Homecoming gave her fans, sorry but As It Was offers little more than empty platitudes about how he always emerges on top. And none of this is as interesting as, say, his brief introspection over Beady Eye’s failure and his diminished confidence in the lead up to his solo career.
Gallagher himself makes for an engaging enough interview subject, and short sections where he revisits his childhood home and engages with young fans are plenty entertaining. At one point, he laments the loss of his voice because he “likes the sound” of it so much, which is the kind of amusing aside the doc could have used more of. But ultimately, the directors’ unwillingness to challenge him or ask the difficult questions means his larger than life personality often goes to waste.
The last 10 minutes lightly touch upon “the Noel issue,” although the one-sided nature prevents it from going anywhere particularly interesting. Instead, the film closes out on tired notions of rockstardom and the eye-rolling suggestion that Liam is, in fact, “the last great rock ‘n’ roll singer.” Who knows, perhaps if the day comes that Oasis get back together we’ll get a Bros-style doc that really examines the Gallagher siblings’ relationship, but As It Was will likely go down as strictly for the diehards.