Film Review: Blur: To the End – 8.5/10

‘If you don’t keep him focused on the job in hand, he’ll literally write another opera…’

You could argue that Britpop never really went away. Its influence has pervaded everything from fashion to film to politics but 2023 saw this revival reach its apotheosis. Huge reunion shows from both Blur and Pulp thrust Britpop back into the public consciousness, culminating in the release of Blur: To the End – British director Toby L’s attempt to make sense of it all…

We begin with Blur frontman Damon Albarn driving to a secluded farm-cum-recording studio to meet with his friends and bandmates. Despite having known each other since school, Alex James reveals that the band have barely spoken since their last set of reunion gigs back in 2015. What follows is a document charting the band’s ultimately successful attempt to conquer the one British venue that has always eluded them – Wembley Stadium.

It’s no accident that this is far from the first film to tackle Blur. From the much-lauded Starshaped in 1993, to retrospective No Distance Left to Run in 2010 and then New World Towers (which charted the making of 2015’s The Magic Whip), filmmakers keep returning to the well with Blur and within moments of this film it is easy to see why. All four members of the band are likeable, eloquent and funny (even Alex James), and it is always a joy to see Albarn and Blur guitarist Graham Coxon getting on so well. One sequence here sees the duo returning to their comprehensive school in Colchester to visit the music suite named after them. It’s a funny, poignant and life-affirming moment, sweet in its awkwardness and tinged with a kind of sad nostalgia. There are several such moments dotted around the film and in the end, it becomes a comment on ageing and the difficulties of maintaining male friendships as much as it is about the Wembley gig. That being said, all of the musical footage is excellent, particularly the stuff from the warmup shows in tiny venues in such far-flung locales as Wolverhampton and Eastbourne (and, of course, Colchester). My only criticism would be that it would have been nice to have a little more live footage – a few songs presented in their entirety would have been welcome rather than just a few moments pieced together at random.

To the End is unlikely to win over any new converts, but long-time Blur fans such as myself will no doubt revel and bask in seeing the likely lads together again and mostly smiling. Sure, three of them might be nursing dodgy knees but on their day, Blur remain one of the most important British guitar bands out there.