Backbeat is a raucous film about the Beatles in the 1960s before they made it big. Ian Hart plays an angry John Lennon who convinces Stuart Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff), an art school friend, to join the band as a bass player. He agrees and off they go to Hamburg. There Sutcliffe falls in love with Astrid (Sheryl Lee), a bohemian photographer who convinces him to pursue his career in painting.
This highly entertaining flash into the past of the Beatles convinces with its brash energy and lively pop music. It also scores with its unusually frank portrait of the friendship between Lennon and Sutcliffe. These two are welded together by vivid past experiences. They nicely complement each other as fire and ice. Writer and director Iain Softley captures and conveys the brooding intensity of their relationship. Although Sutcliffe died at the age of 22, Lennon considered their friendship to be one of the crowns of his life. He celebrated it in his music and in his memory.