Al Pacino gives his best performance in years in Danny Collins

Al Pacino as the aging rocker Danny Collins
Al Pacino as the aging rocker Danny Collins

Danny Collins, just like the film’s star, is a film that oozes effortless charisma.

Al Pacino stars as Danny Collins, an ageing rocker who can’t give up his hard-living ways. When he discovers a lost letter written to him by John Lennon over 40 years ago, it inspires him to examine his life and what’s important, to reconnect with his estranged family.

The film is based on the true story of Steve Tilston and English musician who had enjoyed a relative amount of success as a rock, and later as a folk, musician. Lennon had been inspired to write to Tilston when he read an interview with the young musician in Zig-Zag magazine in 1971. The question put to Tilston was whether or not he thought wealth and fame would impact negatively on his song writing. "Yes, it would have a very detrimental effect,” was his reply.

Lennon described in his letter how he had experienced both poverty and great wealth with neither having any effect on his song writing. "Being rich doesn't change your experience in the way you think," wrote Lennon. "The only difference basically is that you don't have to worry about money - food - roof - etc., but all other experiences - emotions - relationships - are the same as anybody's,” he wrote. He included his phone number and signed the letter “Love John and Yoko”.

The film stays true to the basic facts of the story, but it is a Hollywood production so the emotional elements are creatively enhanced. Of course Pacino’s presence dominates the film and it is a vehicle for his best performance in years.

He is supported by an ensemble cast in Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale and Christopher Plummer. Danny Collins is the directorial debut by Crazy Stupid Love writer Danny Fogelman and while he doesn’t skimp on the cliché, the film is busting with heart and good intentions. Carried along by the strength of the performances, the somewhat cumbersome plot is lifted to a truly heart-warming and life-affirming story of redemption.

Pacino’s Danny Collins is far removed from the serious musicianship of Steve Tilston. Collins’ career is built on a lifetime of soft core swinging rock ballads, he’s a washed up star, his life wasted on sex, drugs and rock and roll.

However for his birthday, he receives the John Lennon letter which had been kept hidden from him for forty years. In the film the letter reads “Stay true to your music, stay true to yourself”. Reading it, Collins is profoundly affected. He remembers his 20-year-old self and thinks that if he’d received the letter at the time it was written, his life would have changed course and he wouldn’t have been sucked into the hedonistic life of the music industry.

Danny Collins, just like the film’s star, is a film that oozes effortless charisma. With strong performances right the way through, it is a film that delivers much more than it promises. A feel good story of redemption that makes you believe it’s never too late to change course.

Check out the full trailer here