The early days of The Beatles when the yet-to-be-fab four were chasing fame and fräuleins in the grimy basement clubs of Hamburg, Germany, provide a colourful backdrop for the story of Stuart Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff), the original Beatles bassist who died of a brain haemorrhage in 1962.
Backbeat centres on artist Stu’s intense affair with style-setting photographer Astrid Kirchherr (Sheryl Lee). She is one of the existentialists who dress in beatnik black with hair combed down on their foreheads (the main influence on the Beatle cut).
The film’s main asset though is the charismatic performance of Ian Hart as a sardonic, insecure, angry young John Lennon, loving, envying and influenced by Stu and Astrid.
“It’s all dick,” says Lennon of Kirchher’s world. He’s jealous, she says, because she has Sutcliffe.
While a huge improvement on the dismal TV movie Birth of the Beatles, Iain Softley’s account of the Fab Four’s Hamburg days is rather like their music of the time: loud, raw and full of energy.