Greatest Days shines bright, perfectly capturing the power of music, friendship, and how we are never beyond the mysticism of childhood.
A musical adaption of Take That’s greatest hits is undoubtedly a hard sell for audiences who don’t have a close affiliation with the 90s boyband. Thankfully, Greatest Days directed by Coky Giedroyc radiates its joy, illuminating darker moments and perfectly demonstrating how music, regardless of our preferred artists, gets us through life, especially those we form a bond with during our youth.
A bond that five school friends, Rachel (Lara McDonnell), Heather (Eliza Dobson), Zoe (Nandi Sawyers-Hudson), Claire (Carragon Guest) and Debbie (Jessie Mae Alonzo), share over their love of The Boys, a term used in replacement for Take That, with the modern tanktop-wearing men being a placeholder for any of the numerous boybands of the 90s and 00s.
It is just that under Coky Giedroyc’s direction that Greatest Days captures the undeniable hold Take That had over a generation, with the soundtrack used to mute the monotony and disappointments of childhood, as the muscled boys appear from cupboards and in the reflections to offer a constant imaginary companionship to the girls.
Cutting to the modern day, Rachel (Aisling Bea) wins a competition for her and three others to attend a concert in Athens for a special reunion concert of her coveted Boys.
Except, twenty-five years later, Rachel is no longer in contact with her childhood friends, bringing with it its own issues as the friends fell out, never speaking since.
Based on the West End show of the same name, Greatest Days achieves the same captivation of Mamma Mia!, with the songs serving as an emotional drive for the film and thankfully steering clear of the music-video issue of other musicals like The Greatest Showman, which uses its sequences to provide visuals for the hit singles like This Is Me.
Instead, Greatest Days excels through its choreography and polished direction by Giedroyc. An aeroplane boarding sequence to Shine becomes a Vaudevillian display of pageantry, as suitcases and tap dancing riffs on the iconography of Fred Astaire with the friends dressed in gorgeous gowns, celebrating the majesty of the moment within their euphoria. Plus, even in the dramatized moments, the cinematic considerations are impeccable.
By intuitively utilising her editor Mark Davies and cinematographer, Mike Eley, Coky Giedroyc manipulates emotions with precision, respectfully juggling the weight of the ballads, taking audiences from cheek-aching laughter to weeping messes with Relight My Fire and Back for Good as two standout sections, with the former erupting the auditorium into applause, and the latter, constant sniffles.
Similarly, the modern-day Claire (Jayde Adams) provides an acute, turned-down performance as the one friend whose future hadn’t panned out like the others, despite having a career as an Olympic diver on the horizon. Jayde delivers the role with a precise understanding of character, with her stand-up career allowing for an unquestionable partnership with Aisling Bea, who together carry the majority of the ‘grown-up’ scenes, alongside Alice Lowe (Heather) and Amaka Okafor (Zoe).
I am undeniably not the demographic for Greatest Days. A young man whose knowledge of their discography has been passed down from generations before me. However, I was enthralled, and I hope audiences give it a chance to win them over too.
It will only take a minute to fall in love with Greatest Days, and then you will never forget how sensational it is.
Greatest Days is released in cinemas exclusively on 16 June with tickets also available for a live performance premiere preview in cinemas on 15 June.
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