Love & Mercy is a 2014 American biographical drama film directed by Bill Pohlad that focuses on musician-songwriter Brian Wilson, co-founder of the Beach Boys. The film, deriving its title from the 1988 song by Wilson, is presented in a parallel narrative covering two specific time periods in Wilson’s life: the 1960s and the 1980s. Paul Dano and John Cusack depict the young and middle-aged Wilson, respectively, with Elizabeth Banks as Wilson’s second wife Melinda Ledbetter, and Paul Giamatti as Wilson’s psychotherapist Dr. Eugene Landy. Love & Mercy was distributed in the United States by Roadside Attractions, beginning June 5, 2015. The soundtrack, Music from Love & Mercy, was released on August 14, 2015.
The film premiered in the Special Presentations section of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. It received critical acclaim and was nominated for two Golden Globes: Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture (Paul Dano) and Best Original Song (“One Kind of Love“). Reviewers praised the film for its unorthodox approach to biography, original film score by composer Atticus Ross, Dano’s performance as the increasingly unstable Wilson of the 1960s, and scenes which closely recreate Wilson’s advanced studio recording methods during the making of the Beach Boys’ album Pet Sounds (1966). The real life Wilson – who had little involvement with the film’s development – called it “very factual.”
In the 1960s, young songwriter and recording savant Brian Wilson (Paul Dano) finds himself in the midst of extraordinary success after scoring numerous hit records with The Beach Boys. Following a panic attack, he resigns from concert touring and ventures into the studio intent on creating “the greatest album ever made”, Pet Sounds. Meanwhile, his grip on reality slowly loosens as he attempts to cope with the overwhelming voices in his head. Later, in the 1980s, a middle-aged Wilson (John Cusack) is shown to be a broken, confused man under the pharmacological and legal thrall of his abusive therapist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). After meeting Wilson, Cadillac saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) is determined to save him from Landy’s manipulation.