By Chris Dos Santos
24th August 2023

Being a teenager in the 2010s was truly a wild time - social media was rising, everyone was begging to get a phone, and boy bands were back. In 2011, 'Justin Bieber: Never Say Never' changed the game. Grossing US$99 million worldwide, it became the highest-grossing concert movie since 1984 and the third highest-grossing documentary since 1982. Since 1991's 'Madonna: Truth or Dare', music documentaries have always been around, but 'Never Say Never' brought a box office success that hadn't been seen before. A year prior to that film, the UK version of 'The X-Factor' did something unheard of at the time: take five unsuccessful contestants and put them into a group - more specifically, a boy band - and One Direction was born. Before the group even released its first single, 'What Makes You Beautiful', they were an international success with Twitter blowing up and all five members - Harry, Zayn, Niall, Louis and Liam - gaining a massive following. Once that single dropped in August 2011 it was the Wild West; no longer were they teens from a reality TV show, they were international pop stars, and the next four years were 1D mania!


'One Direction: This is Us' documents the boys going on their 'Take Me Home Tour', their second world tour which took place the same year as the film. They are coming off the heels of releasing their second album and going straight into the recording of their third, 'Midnight Memories', which we also see them begin to record in the film. We get an intimate all-access look at their lives on the road as well as see the challenges of their fast rise to fame and the adjustments that come with that.

I was deep in the trenches of 1D mania back in the day. The first time I saw them live was on this tour when they came to Australia in October 2013, and it was truly a dark and beautiful time. Over the years, many of us have looked back and cringed but also reflected nostalgically on the time period. We all know that in 2015 during their fourth tour Zayn left the band, and while they released one more album, they have been on a "hiatus" ever since, though with all their solo careers taking off a reunion is not likely. Their appeal was they were just like us - regular guys from your school who just happened to be in the most famous boy band in the world.

Watching the film both as a look back at life in 2013 and with the context of what's happened since they broke up, it's a bittersweet time capsule. One Direction brought so much joy to their fans all over the world.

Watching the film both as a look back at life in 2013 and with the context of what's happened since they broke up, it's a bittersweet time capsule. One Direction brought so much joy to their fans all over the world, and for some people, they even gained friendships that last to this day; the impact on their fans lives is still huge. Writing this retrospective was the first time I realised that film was shot, edited and released about a tour while the band was still on that tour. The five of them where so incredibly overworked and it's clear to see how the band began to fall apart.

As a film, this does what it was made to do: appeal to people already in the trenches of 1D-dom. This isn't a music documentary exploring the story of the band, it's pure fan service in the same way Justin Bieber's was - and that's not a bad thing. Because of this, it exists as an untainted bubble from time, and if you want a peek into what it was like in 2013 at the height of their fame, 'One Direction: This is Us' serves as a great insight.

I sit here 10 years on and can't help but smile reflecting on One Direction. So much of my high school identity is linked to things they did. I can remember sitting around laptops when a new music video dropped, going to their concerts, and of course seeing this film on its opening day. It was nice to go back and relish that sweet, innocent time, and that's what 'One Direction: This is Us' is all about.

Since he appears in this film, Martin Scorsese surely considers this cinema!

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