Bohemian Rhapsody

  • Jo Siedlecka
  • (Updated )

Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury

Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury

The reviewers weren't impressed with Bohemian Rhapsody when it was released in October - but the Freddie Mercury biopic looks set to be a classic with audiences - and has gone on to scoop an armful of awards: including two Golden Globes - for best film drama and best actor for Rami Malek in the title role, a BAFTA award for best Actor, and four Oscars yesterday for Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Film Editing and Best Actor.

In his modest acceptance speech last night at the Oscars, Ramek paid tribute to his own Egyptian heritage, mentioning that like Freddie, he was the son of immigrants. He said the film was about a gay man, "an immigrant who lived his life just unapologetically himself" …. "The fact that I'm celebrating him and this story with you tonight is proof that we're longing for stories like this."

Born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, to Zoroastrian Parsi parents from India, Freddie's family fled a revolution there and moved to west London in the 60s when he was a teenager. The film takes up his story as he's working as a baggage handler at Heathrow - often called a 'Paki' there. We see him as a shy young man hanging out in local clubs. He eventually persuades a band called Smile with Brian May and Roger Taylor to take him on as their lead singer. The rest is history. Queen were incredibly successful from the start - partly because they were all fine musicians - but with a larger-than-life frontman like Mercury - also a highly original songwriter - they had hit gold.

There is a verve and vitality in the storytelling, music and performances, and some very touching moments in this film. Gwilym Lee is empathetic as Brian May, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor and Joseph Mazello as John Deacon bring the band to life. Malek is exceptional as Freddie Mercury. He gives himself totally to the part from start to finish.

Canadian Christian singer Marc Martel sings many of Freddie's three-octave vocals in the movie. More used to singing Christian songs to evangelical audiences in his band Downhere, Marc was chosen because he has also travelled the world as a Freddie Mercury tribute artist. He said: "When I'm singing Somebody to Love it has more meaning for me than the other songs because it was Freddie's attempt at writing a Gospel song."

While the Catholic News Service review has classified the film as 'morally offensive' because of its sometimes bad language and depiction of the rock star lifestyle, other reviewers have complained that Freddie's life story has been sanitised and there is not enough gay sex and drugs. Personally I'm very glad Sacha Baron Cohen was not given the part - a decision I understand that was made by Brian May and Roger Taylor who were involved in the production. It would have been a very different film.

Apart from the pleasure of watching the band perform one Queen song after another - there is a real humanity in the story. Freddie and the other band members show great loyalty towards each other. Arguments are followed by forgiveness and reconciliation. For a while Freddie is very distant from his father - but their relationship does get restored. He is always close to his mother and sister. Particularly moving is Freddy's relationship with his girlfriend Mary Austin, played by Lucy Boynton. He writes 'Love of My Life' for her - and they remain lifelong best friends, after Freddie realises that he is gay. She nursed him through his final illness.

Freddie learns about his fatal AIDS diagnosis and eventually tells the other band members - but the film does not focus on that - instead it is a joyful celebration of life.

The concert for which Queen is most remembered was Live Aid at Wembley, July 13, 1985 to raise funds for famine relief in Africa. The line-up included Elton John, Madonna, Santana, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, The Who, Tom Petty, the Beach Boys and David Bowie. Freddie's electrifying stage presence that day - perfectly choreographed and re-enacted by Malik in the film - has been described as the 'greatest-ever rock performance' of all time. It is worth seeing Bohemian Rhapsody for that alone - but there is much more to enjoy in this big-hearted film.

Watch a trailer here:

See also: ICN 28 February 2019 Queen - Is there a Catholic Link

Tags: Oscars, Film, Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddie Mercury, Live Aid, Rami Malek, Queen, #RamiMalek

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