Featuring: Justin Hawkins, Dan Hawkins, Frankie Poullain, Rufus Taylor, Roger Taylor, Ed Sheeran
Director: Simon Emmett
In Cinemas: 9th November 2023
In 2003, British rockers The Darkness took the world by storm with their smash hit single ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ and the award-winning, chart-topping, multi-platinum debut album Permission to Land. Then, at the height of their fame in 2006, the band split up and fell off the music radar. Nine years later, director Simon Emmett followed The Darkness on their long, rocky, hilarious comeback trail. From a small pub gig in the middle of nowhere with the ambition of performing at packed arena shows once again, Welcome to The Darkness shows the stark reality of a ‘cult band’ struggling to recapture former glory. Twenty years after their platinum-selling debut, Justin Hawkins, his brother Dan Hawkins, eccentric bassist Frankie Poullain, and new drummer Rufus Taylor tell their story, in their own words, of The Darkness’ comeback tale. With unprecedented access, unseen archive footage, and intimate interviews filmed over eight years, Welcome to The Darkness is a tongue-in-cheek reflection on fame, failure, friendship and forgiveness. This is a heartfelt, unique account of A band of brothers still haunted by the demons that ripped them apart. A band who can defiantly laugh in the face of adversities in their ultimate quest for happiness and redemption.
Permission To Land was initially released in 2003 via Atlantic Records and stormed to the top of the UK Albums chart, where it remained for four weeks, and spent 53 weeks in the Top 100. It achieved the band’s three BRIT Awards, including British Album Of The Year, British Group and British Rock Act, where they fended off competition from Blur, Radiohead, Sugababes, Muse, Primal Scream and more. The record has sold over 3.5 million copies, with 1.8 million in the UK alone.
The documentary begins in Ireland on Valentia Island, County Kerry, at The Royal Hotel, where The Darkness have their first gig of the intimate shows tour with new drummer Emily Dolan Davies. You almost get that impression of embarrassment and frustration between the band members as they gather in the hotel lobby, candidly welcoming guests and informing them that they will be their entertainment for the evening. They casually sit around a table in the bar, giving interviews to local radio stations. From playing sold-out arenas to tens of thousands of fans, to now playing in a small function room to a handful of people. It is almost like they are beginning from scratch, and the lingering feeling of once-found fame is now a distant memory. The incredible sense of importance and priority on friendships and family among the band members become so overwhelming that The Darkness’s music and performing aspects are secondary. There are lovely moments between brothers Justin and Dan about loyalty and forgiveness that can get pretty emotional. Justin speaks honestly about his drug addiction and how it ultimately broke up the band and, more importantly, his relationship with his sibling. The film brilliantly gives an open and accurate presentation of the complications and disadvantages of being a world-famous rock band.
The Documentary does not mask itself from the truth or fabricate its story; it does the opposite. Dan talks directly about his struggle with testicular cancer and the obstacles he faces by being affected by the disease. But whenever any subject matter gets serious, it is dealt with with care and compassion, and eventually, it is flipped upside down and discussed in a more humorous approach. There is a hilarious scene at Dan’s wedding where Justin gives his best man speech, which involves a hand puppet and the Spice Girls’ hit song ‘2 Become 1’. Although the film occasionally pulls on the heartstrings, it offers non-stop comedy between the band throughout the film. Plenty of laugh-out moments connect you to the band as you learn more about them as a group of people; it explores them in a humanistic setting instead of the glamorous life of the road rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Welcome to The Darkness gives a fascinating and honest insight into music, life and friendship in a natural and realistic light. It might even be the same calibre as Anvil: The Story of Anvil.