It has been 40 years since John Lennon’s death. He was only 40 years of age when he died, and he would’ve been 80 years of age this year. Knowing this certainly adds emotional gravitas to the viewing experience of Lennon’s Last Weekend. You might be a fan of John Lennon, the Beatles or a music history buff. If you’re one of those three things, this moving documentary is certainly for you.
John Lennon had a final heartfelt sit-down interview. He did that with Radio 1 DJ Andy Peebles of the BBC on December 8, 1980. You know what happened around 48 hours afterwards. Mark David Chapman brutally shot and murdered Lennon outside of his Dakota building apartment in New York City. Simultaneously, Peebles was flying from New York City over the Atlantic back to the UK with the interview tapes. Upon arriving he heard the terrible and shocking news of what had transpired. John Lennon’s death sent shockwaves throughout the world.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono hadn’t spoken to the media for five years. That’s until this now historic interview with Peebles. After the release of their album Double Fantasy in November 1980, they were open to sitting down with Peebles. The rare interview ended up lasting more than three hours. It covered a wide array of topics that Lennon hadn’t previously opened up about; the break-up of the Beatles, his addiction battles, issues with the US government and much more. TV Producer Malcolm Gerrie called the interview, “the greatest obituary in the history of popular music”. The final sit-down interview with Peebles originally aired on BBC Radio One in January 1981.
Written, Edited & Directed by Grammy award-winning Music Video, BAFTA and Emmy nominated television director Brian Grant (Doctor Who, Donna Summer, Queen), Lennon’s Last Weekend provides an earnest look at Lennon’s candid final sit-down interview. The film deftly intersperses the audio from the interview with Peebles with things you expect from documentaries. There’s plenty of archival footage, photographs and discussions with people who knew Lennon. The interviews with those who knew him are particularly touching. The same goes with the archival footage of Lennon at various stages of his life. The outspoken and honest Lennon is infinitely captivating. That’s true whether it be Lennon discussing his much talked about relationship with Paul McCartney. Or the reasons why the Beatles stopped touring.
What really shines in the documentary are the moments in which we get to hear the man behind the icon. He enjoyed the television shows Fawlty Towers and The Goon Show. The film engages you with the way in which he spoke of how much he enjoyed those show. It shows a wonderfully vulnerable side to the music icon. The film touches upon some of these lighter and vulnerable moments. In some cases they felt deserving of some more screen time. Meanwhile, some other more known historical topics like his issues with the US government feel a bit drawn out.
Focusing a bit more on the more personal topics discussed could’ve given the documentary some more heart. There are so many intriguing topics to cover. Lennon was an iconic person. Thus, you can understand that this documentary cannot nearly discuss and examine everything at length. The archival and interview footage used looks very good. But the unnecessary chapter headings can sometimes take you out of the moment. The film could have also given more care also the look and design of these chapter headings.
Lennon’s Last Weekend msses another opportunity. This documentary is, after all, about one of the greatest songwriters of all-time and his classic songs. It doesn’t even play a snippet of his music in the documentary. If it was a music rights issue, then it is certainly understandable. However, its exclusion doesn’t make it any less disappointing. Lennon’s music clearly would have added a much needed emotional resonance. Although sure, there’s the underwhelming lack of his music in the documentary. But it still succeeded in inspiring me to go and listen to his classic records. I’m sure that anyone watching will want to as well.
Lennon’s Last Weekend is definitely a powerful and at times heartbreaking documentary worth viewing, especially for those who admire Lennon. There are many who are curious to learn more about one of the most iconic figures in music. This film provides a good historical insight. Lennon beautifully wrote these lyrics in the Beatles song, “Julia”. “When I cannot sing my heart, I can only speak my mind”. His legacy lives on.