THE QUIET ONE
Starring: Bill Wyman
Directed & Written by: Oliver Murray
Based on interviews and the archive of Bill Wyman
Studio: Sundance Selects
“When I was a little boy, all my heroes were the little guys. I think it’s something about being a little guy. You always want to prove that you can still do it against the big guys, and that’s the drive. And it’s been my drive all my life.” – Bill Wyman
My music taste has always been all over the place. I listen to everything from Neil Young to Nirvana, Bikini Kill to The Kinks. However, there are two handfuls of bands that will never leave my archive for as long as I live. Three are ones I’ve mentioned, but another is The Rolling Stones. The vibrant fuse of blues, R&B, soul, and rock is something undeniable. The band continues to be a staple in rock & roll, but the members of the band are even more exciting than you can imagine.
If you think of the Rolling Stones as individuals, I bet your mind goes straight to the iconic restless dance moves of Mick Jagger. Or you may think of the insane licks from Keith Richards. The fantastic sticks of Charlie Watts. Or even, the tragedy and death of Brian Jones. But there’s one member of the Rolling Stones that’s always been there, and he’s been one of the best at what he does. Bill Wyman was with the Rolling Stones for so long that he’s seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. He’s seen the chaos of the road. He’s also seen the tragedy of friends and relationships. In The Quiet One, director Oliver Murray takes a personal and profound in-depth look into Wyman’s history through his archives that give you a first-hand glimpse of who this quiet man is.
“You make your own way, don’t you? You just head in directions you think are good at the time.”
Bill Wyman played with The Rolling Stones for over 31 years. For a band to last that long is a miracle, but Wyman is downright beyond that. In The Quiet One, we see Bill from his start, growing up in war-torn London. We venture into his start with The Stones to the eventual end. The Quiet One feels so much like an intimate portrait that captures a lot. It’s soft-spoken and rambunctious, but it never lets you forget that it’s telling a story of a life and that you need to pay attention.
Wyman is a BIG cause for all of that. Fact is, he really is this quiet man. He’s also as soft-spoken as the film’s quiet parts. In the footage, you can see the young Wyman observe instead of getting into the shuffle. You see him film and just be for the most part, but you never see him in a craze. This creates an interesting level of intimacy. Especially with the story coming from Bill himself and through his archives. The film is built of memories in the archives. Things he’s collected throughout his years. Memories of days past, but also things in the present that he can hold onto. It’s a brilliant way to show that the memories may be in the past for Wyman, but they never truly die.
The other thing that makes this film special is the amount of voiceover. I know that I had a problem with this in the Mystify: Michael Hutchence documentary where there needed to be a GLIMPSE of a talking head in it. The Quiet One masters what I wanted to say about that film. The Quiet Ones use voiceover just right. It almost brightens up the story instead of just handing you footage. Again, because this movie is set up of memories and centers around Bill’s archive is something genius. It made the voiceover element a little more robust and quite powerful. It feels like these people are talking through this footage and the tapes. They aren’t just telling the story. They lived in the memories that Wyman and Murray are trying to show us. Hearing their voices through these audios made you feel apart of it.
Other parts of the film were just as important if not some of the best I’ve seen in a music documentary in a long time. The non-linear way they tell Wyman’s story is spectacular. They not only tell Wyman’s story but they also tell The Rolling Stones’s story … but it never ever loses sight of who the main focus is. The stories crisscross together with a cohesive flux that never brings down the story; it only amplifies it more where you wonder where this story will lead.
While everything is through footage and tapes, surprisingly, something that worked VERY well was the animation parts. They were simple and drawn beautifully. The animation captures moments that could not have been filmed and only said. The animation sits inside the story comfortably and gives you another gratifying perspective.
I say this with the highest regard. The Quiet One is the best documentary about a musician I’ve seen since The Punk Singer. It gives you such an interesting and rich story of a life, but lets those quiet details of the man flow through you. It’s inspirational and captivating. It’s moving and brings together a man’s love of music that has been with him throughout his life.