Anyone familiar with the triumph and tragedy of Dunedin band The Chills knows this story had to be told at some stage. The Chills had the opportunity to achieve world domination; it didn't happen. Instead lead singer and songwriter Martin Phillipps became a drug addict and ended up in debt.
The challenge in telling this story was picking the right time for the telling; after all, Martin Phillipps and The Chills aren't done yet.
Phillipps' brush with mortality a few years back proves to be the perfect point to jump into the extraordinary story of one of New Zealand's most iconic bands. His life-threatening brush with Hepatitis C and liver failure, providing an opportunity for reflection, redemption and a fresh start; and film-maker Julia Parnell grasps it with deft hands.
Early on in the film, we find ourselves in a medical examination room as Martin Phillipps learns 80 per cent of his liver is not functioning and if he continues drinking he will die. It's an intimate moment, but somehow not an awkward one. Parnell is a quiet observer and captures the moment with the same restrained manner with which Phillipps receives the news.
The news of his failing liver prompts a change in Phillipps. He sorts through his collections of toys and artefacts – throwing away the rubbish and allowing the rest to be used in an exhibition about The Chills.
Through Phillipps' extensive collection of news clippings, we trace the journey of The Chills, watching Phillipps accept with that same restraint the praise and criticism of the band's journey and his role in it. He's good company, and often unintentionally funny.
Parnell also captures the story of The Chills from the many, many others who were part of its adventure - more than 30 people can claim to have been a band member. Many felt disgruntled, disillusioned, exhausted, and exhilarated, and Parnell respects everyone's point of view.
This is a story of a musical genius, honest and insightful and beautifully told, and rounded off with stunning images of the local landscape. If you're a fan of The Chills you'll enjoy this jaunt down memory lane, for others, it's both cautionary tale and great story.
And a practical takeaway for fans attending a Chills concert in future, it's best not to yell "Pink Frost"...
Martin Phillipps, Neil Finn
Honest, moving and entertaining doco.