“I’ve been walkin’ through a world gone blind/… I’m scared/I’ve never fallen from quite this high/Fallin’ into your ocean eyes” (Finneas, “Ocean Eyes,” 2015).
At 13, Billie Eilish and her brother, Finneas, posted this song, written by Finneas, on SoundCloud. Overnight, it went viral and seven years later “Ocean Eyes” has over 384 million hits on YouTube.
This documentary on Billie Eilish, which is shortlisted for an Oscar, is surprisingly revelatory, interesting, well-constructed and intimate. A good amount is shot where she lives with her mom, dad and genius brother. Reflecting on her music’s popularity, she explains that “everyone is going through something, good or bad.” She explains that the people who cheer for her, listen to her songs, and memorize her lyrics are “not my fans, but part of me.”
Billie gets out her journal. It is filled with art and lyrics/poetry. She explains that she writes from her drawings, explaining them. The erotic art is a bit startling to see, but she shows the pictures to the camera and describes them, including the male body part.
There is only one quizzical bit about this documentary and that is the title. Why isn’t it called Finneas and Billie?
Writing for Billie does not come easily and she repeatedly says she hates to write songs. However, both she and Finneas are able to tap a universal consciousness, that insecure, broken place of the deep soul. “Another story/of girl meets boy/and gets destroyed” (Finneas, “sHE’s brOKen,” 2015).
Finneas’s small bedroom is his recording studio where they work on music together. He sings perfect harmony and encourages his younger sister (he’s 4 years older) when she gets discouraged or depressed. They work together to get their music the way they want it. While they may alternate or collaborate on the writing, but he is always the producer.
The striking item here is Billie’s voice. It is soft, breathy, in perfect pitch, and lyrically hypnotic. The voice itself has charisma and Finneas’s harmony and mix enhances the sound.
By now, Finneas and Billie have won many Grammys. He is a wunderkind, having won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Best Engineered Record, and Best Producer by the time he was 22. She is a meistersinger, having won 38 awards by age 20.
Eilish has a fabulous voice and an ability to tap her innermost feelings. In catching her own core emotions, she finds herself reflecting exactly what young people feel. This candid documentary is excellent.
Hurry, I’m worried
The world’s a little blurry
Or maybe it’s my eyes…
(Eilish and Finneas, “ilomilo”).
Writer/Director: R.J. Cutler
Featuring: Billie Eilish O’Connell, Finneas O’Connell, Maggie Baird and Patrick O’Connell
Cinematography: Jenna Rosher
Film Editing: Greg Finton and Lindsay Ut
Released: Feb. 26, 2021
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