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Soundtrack review: Love & mercy (Atticus Ross – 2015)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Love & mercy (Atticus Ross – 2015)


“Love & Mercy: The life, love and genius of Brian Wilson” is a 2014 biopic film based on the life of the famous Beach Boys singer and innovator. Paul Dano and John Cusack portray him at various stages of his life. Brian Wilson is a very interesting persona so I will probably watch the movie. Besides obvious Beach Boys selection, the soundtrack of the movie includes a score by Atticus Ross and this is one of the names that always raise an excitement flag for me.

I can’t think of anyone more appropriate to score a movie about the life of a guy who suffered from auditory hallucinations than a former member of Nine Inch Nails. You need a special kind of imagination and experience to properly express the chaos and doubts of mental illness. It’s obvious from the opening cue “The black hole” that this will not be a score for everyone. Fortunately, it is a score for me. I get this sound, I like this sound and I’m familiar with it. A gorgeous ambient piece like “Silhouette” is just what the doctor ordered. I can get lost in this hazy illusion and I am embracing all the images it shows me. I feel as if I’m floating among weird shapes and colors.

The score tries to emulate in a way the psychedelic nature of Brian Wilson’s genius. There are strange vocal inserts in the cues and the sound often dissolves into static. It’s a fascinating score for me and a journey inside a troubled mind. The music is quiet and natural. It creeps and changes shape very often and it plays like a hallucination. Don’t expect a traditional score but nothing is ever traditional with Atticus Ross. The score is minimalistic, atmospheric and weird. At one point during “Losing it” the music actually stops and we can only hear what I think is the sound of silver wear rattling or a shovel hitting some rocks. The sound then gets louder and rises until it becomes almost deafening and someone yells “Stop”. Is it the sound of the pressure in the brain getting too much? Still the vocal inserts from the movie don’t bother me because they add to the sensation of chaos and doubt that governs this score.

The schizophrenic nature of the music is most obvious to me in “I’m right here” which swings from vocal recitations which are probably the voices in someone’s head to beautiful and eerie atmospheric sounds. “The bed montage” is too much even for me though.

This is an Atticus Ross score. Expect being intrigued, fascinated, annoyed… just don’t expect anything normal. I liked it.

Cue rating: 86 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 9 / 21

Album excellence: 41%



I’m right here



Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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