Murray Cumming’s documentary, Songwriter, is able to capture Ed Sheeran as he puts together his third studio album, ÷.
With director Murray Cummings also being a cousin of the singer, it makes this documentary extra special. Because it’s a family affair, Cummings goes behind-the-scenes as Sheeran puts together a new album with producer Benny Blanco. Sheeran writes whenever he has the time–be it on the bus, a Malibu estate, or even while on a cruise liner. Through the process, Sheeran is prone to his vulnerable side. Nobody is immune to such vulnerabilities. Not even chart-topping musicians!
Before a montage of travel scenes, Cummings is cable to capture Sheeran posting on Instagram about taking a break from social media. It’s a lesson that many celebrities could use. Of course, there are a large number who are forced away from social media due to harassment. This is the beauty of a documentary such as Songwriter. Far too often, we only get a brief glimpse at celebrities through the filters they want us to see through social media and media interviews.
When you’re a family member telling a story, you can provide insight that isn’t available to other filmmakers. At the same time, there is already an insane amount of information out there. This means that there’s a nice hill to climb as far as what time of story to tell. While Cummings climbs the hill with the finished product being a fun documentary about his cousin, there are some questions. The first one being, why limit the film from being so much more? Again, this could be because of Sheeran wanting to curate what people see through his lens. Here’s a guy who practically quit social media for a year in order to live and travel the world. Yet at the same time, other than songs in various stages of the recording process, there could be so much more.
Ultimately, Songwriter is a very different kind of documentary than what we’re used to seeing about musicians. We don’t get to see Sheeran dealing with fame as many celebrity docs show us. There’s no concert footage. No running from the cameras. There’s not even the basic sit-down interviews that ground so many documentaries over the years. The focus for this documentary is showing strictly how the music comes together and that’s it. The die-hard fans will likely welcome Songwriter with open arms. The rest of us are left wanting just a little bit more.
DIRECTOR: Murray Cummings
FEATURING: Ed Sheeran, Beoga Beoga, Benny Blanco, John McDaid, Julia Michaels, Fuse Odg, Matthew Sheeran, Ryan Tedder, Foy Vance, Amy Wadge