Sacha Gervasi’s bittersweet rockumentary about Anvil, the metal band that never made it, begins with a nostalgic look at the 1984 Super Rock festival in Japan, the setting of their first big performance. Feedback from prominent contributors like Slash and Lemmy aver that the band should have thrived like their contemporaries, but none of them can explain why it never happened (aside from their Canadian heritage, of course). A later scene where singer Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow struggles to manoeuvre a tray of children’s lunches up an icy path suggests that the band isn’t quite where they imagined they would be thirty years on, but assertions from his nearest and dearest show that they haven’t half tried.
As we follow the band on a mission to complete their thirteenth album, we get to know its two core members intimately. Drummer Robb Reiner plays an introspective, rational yin to Lips’ temperamental yang. Sometimes their awkward moments feel too contrived, but it never ruins the illusion.
While many are adamant that the film is a real-life version of Christopher Guest’s This Is Spinal Tap, it actually has much more in common with his A Mighty Wind: strained relationships between band members, the laughably repetitive album covers, the poignant reunion gig, people stuck resolutely in the past. Gervasi’s debut is made all the more personal for his connections with the band (he was their roadie), but he has wisely chosen to stay out of the frame and lay focus on these bizarre, indomitable creatures.