Film Review: Greatest Days (2023)

Take That jukebox musical Greatest Days doesn’t quite come to life on the big screen

“Here I am trying to tell you that I care”

There’s so many films being turned into musicals these days, that it is bit of a relief to see that some musicals are being turned into films, even if the quality scale really can run the gamut. Greatest Days started out life as the musical The Band in 2017 but launched a new tour earlier this year with the rebranded name, this cinematic adaptation also looking to tie in on its release back in June of this year.

Written by Tim Firth and directed by Coky Giedroyc, it’s an uncomplicated nostalgia-fest which – to my mind – at least, takes a little too long to get going, both in terms of its emotional and entertainment stakes. As far as I recall, the plot is more or less the same – four friends are brought back together after 25 years when one of them, Rachel, wins tickets to a reunion concert of their childhood favourite band (in Athens rather than Prague), though memories of the past mean nothing is plain sailing.

The film’s biggest issue comes with its essential nature as a musical – as a lifelong fan of Take That, Rachel is haunted by ‘The Boys’ who pop up at crucial moments to sing one of their songs. So we get onstage performance numbers, we get routines playing out with them singing inside her head and we also get integrated book numbers with the cast singing. These multiple uses of songs don’t necessarily conflict but they do create an inconsistency which doesn’t serve anyone particularly well.

For there’s so much potential here and when it does work, the film flies. A tender version of ‘A Million Love Songs’ makes for a gorgeously emotive moment and ‘Back for Good’ packs an equally powerful punch as it finally allows the older and younger versions of the key characters to interact. The full-on song-and-dance of the closing ‘Never Forget’ is also well done but moments like this are too few and far between, and the less said about the Mamma Mia-stealing Greek chorus the better.

Aisling Bea’s Rachel does lead well from the front, connecting well with frustrated other half Jeff, a game Marc Wootton, and bringing pathos to her relationships with erstwhile pals Heather, Zoe and Claire (Alice Lowe, Amaka Okafor and Jayde Adams respectively). Their younger versions are played with ebullience by Lara McDonnell, Eliza Dobson, Nandi Hudson and Carragon Guest, plus Jessie Mae Alonzo as Debbie and there’s something so well done about the contrast between childhood dreams and adult reality as manifested here.

Aaron Bryan, Dalvin Cory, Joshua Jung, Mark Samaras and Mervin Noronha are decent enough as The Boys, Take That in all but name, but the writing gives them absolutely nothing to do beyond their brief bits of song and dance. Altogether, the film feels like a missed opportunity though it does prove pleasant enough viewing by the end.

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