This is not a true story.
I’m not a fan of The Beatles. That maybe sacrilege for a person, let alone a musician, to say in these parts, a mere river away from the iconic city that homed them but I’m not. Sure I know the hits and their history, but I’ve never voluntarily sat down and listened to them save for a listen or two of I Am The Walrus, they never interested me as a band despite them being an influence for pretty much every musician I listen to. It’s just not for me.
I am a fan of conspiracy theories though. From the grassy knoll to the Reptilian Queen of England I love a good conspiracy and the most interesting thing about The Beatles I ever heard was one of the classics. Paul McCartney died in a car crash in the late sixties and after a Mr William Shears Campbell won a lookalike competition held around the same time, “Billy Shears” took the mantel and became Paul. From the Abbey Road cover being a funeral procession to those misheard lyrics at the end of Strawberry Fields Forever, the “evidence” is seemingly overwhelming and is up there with the Moon Landings and Elvis living somewhere in Cuba with his roommate Tupac.
Writer and Director George Moore alongside Stuart Armstrong (Screenwriter and Production Designer) and Ben Bovington-Key (Screenwriter and 1st Assistant Director) have penned a succinct and stylish version of events that kill Paul and introduce Billy in different ways than the classic telling and bring their own unique stamp to this conspiracy. Set against the backdrop of the gorgeous Lake District, it shows the Fab Three out of their element and in their stereo
typical psychedelic phase garb. John, portrayed by Liverpool based Reid Anderson, is the centre of the film, clashing with Basil Marples’ George all while Ringo (Ashley Pekri) looks on in disbelief and heartache.
Pekri is the emotional heart and soul in Paul is Dead, as the other Beatles rapidly go to how this affects them, it is Ringo that is mourning his friend and knows that without McCartney, Lennon and Harrison are destined to be at each other’s throats till the end and Pekri shows it with a subtlety and depth that this film needs.
Whether it is Michael Shannon playing Elvis or Andre 3000 as Hendrix, one of the greatest challenges an actor can face is portraying an icon. This small cast tackle these legends admirably but it is hard to ignore the stereotypical impressions and costumes that distract from the surrealism and odd wit this movie presents. Anderson and Marples’ chemistry is familiar and believable as their clash of ego and personality ascend like their journey up the mountain and Anton Tweedale perfectly captures the wide eyed innocence and absurdity he finds himself in as Billy.
Paul is Dead is reminiscent in style and substance of HBO’s Flight of the Conchords with its independent, low budget feel and small crew that works perfectly with this witty script and impressive psychedelic shots. As with any short film, you wish it was longer as the emotional weight and depth that the death of Paul McCartney should have is reduced alongside the wealth of material that the internal conflict of the band has.
In its 13 minute run time, Moore offers an interesting take on The Beatles lore that will amuse both conspiracy theorists and Beatlemaniacs alike. Paul is Dead is able to key into the essence of these characters, with huge praise to the cast, writers and director and offer the viewer a dark hearted comedy with an emotional ambivalence for this newly constructed Fab Four.