The easy way to describe Long Time Running is to talk about a documentary about the final tour of the Tragically Hip. If you aren't Canadian or don't know the music of the Tragically Hip, you can learn about a band that had a successful 30+ year run without a single lineup change.
What you might gather from the film is the relationship between Gord Downie, the band, and their fans. The Tragically Hip is a distinctly Canadian band that is appreciated by Canada. The Hip does have a following in Buffalo and select U.S. radio stations have played a few songs. To understand Canada is in part to understand the impact of the Tragically Hip.
The film is divided into 3 major categories:
- will Gord Downie be physically able to do the Man Machine Poem tour
- the tour, leading up to the final show in Kingston, Ontario
- the final show in Kingston, Ontario
If you did watch or hear the final Tragically Hip show in Kingston, you do know Downie did quite well. But that perspective does help to find out what he overcame to pull off the tour. We also learn more about the other band members and how closely they have been tied together. Lead guitarist Rob Baker tells the story of being in the same sandbox with bassist Gord Sinclair as very small children. Downie and rhythm guitarist Paul Langlois were good friends when Downie invited him into the band in 1986. Drummer Johnny Fay was there from the beginning. The only changes in the lineup was the arrival of Langlois when saxophonist Davis Manning left the band in 1986. Those changes happened before recording albums.
A surprising detail was learning that the band had to rehearse to help out Downie, something they did not normally do.
The 15-concert tour started in Victoria and went on to Vancouver (2), Edmonton (2), Calgary (2), Winnipeg, London, Toronto (3), Hamilton, Ottawa, and Kingston.
We see shots from the various concerts in sound checks, backstage, and on stage.
The culmination of the film, the final third, centers around the final show in the band's hometown of Kingston, Ontario.
The crowd inside the arena in Kingston was about 6,000, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who does make a brief appearance in the documentary. Another 20,000 watch outside the arena in Kingston. The documentary takes us to viewing parties that sprouted all over Canada: Charlottetown, Halifax, Yellowknife, Toronto, Montréal, and yes, Bobcaygeon, the title of a song from The Hip and a real place in Ontario.
Watching the people of Canada take in all this is worth the price to watch this film. You appreciate what they appreciate even if you don't know the words.
I was coming back from an Argos game in Toronto after the second Toronto show had let out. The vibe I got from the people and how they reacted after the show made me wonder if I picked the wrong entertainment for the night. Though to be fair, the concert was sold out and there were plenty of empty seats at BMO Field.
Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier let the band tell their story. Baichwal is a celebrated documentary director with films such as Manufactured Landscapes and Watermark. The only critique would be spending a bit too much time on setting up the concerts. The directors did win first runner-up for the People’s Choice Documentary Award in the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.
You get really intimate moments such as Downie getting dressed and learning that the neck scarf is just a pair of socks tied together and the ritual of Downie kissing his fellow band members and everyone else on the lips before a show.
The fans are the star of the show. We learn that Downie gets 6 monitors with the words in case he forgets them. Well, the fans certainly know the words quite well and we see them often singing along with Downie and the band.
Besides running on Netflix in the United States, Long Time Running also had special screenings in 35 cities thanks to Canadian consulates and embassies to honour Doc Turns 35.
Long Time Running celebrates the impact of the Tragically Hip on Canada for more than 30 years. Calling the band "Canada's house band" as one fan put it sounds just about right. We note at times that some Canadian films don't have much Canada in them. Long Time Running feels 100% Canadian from the opening credits to the final song.
video credit: YouTube/Elevation Pictures
photos credit: Long Time Running; me