‘Give My Regards to Broad Street’ or — A Rigorous Deconstruction of the Entirely Non-Existent?

Colin Edwards
4 min readJun 3, 2024

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Watching ‘Give My Regards to Broad Street’ (1984) is an experience so excruciatingly painful it’s a pummelling stress-test on the body’s endorphin systems. Yet what exactly is it that’s so awful about this film written by and starring someone who isn’t a professional actor or scriptwriter and helmed by a director with zero feature film experience whatsoever? Fortunately the answers are readily identifiable and easy to elucidate. They are as follows -

i/ — Paul McCartney cannot act.

Look, it’s not that Macca doesn’t possess a bucket-load of charisma and charm but that’s only the case when you let him BE himself and not ACT as himself. Point a camera at him and he’s a delight to behold but ask Paul McCartney to perform as Paul McCartney and all that personality automatically shuts down or disappears completely almost as though he thinks that’s what real acting is — the obliteration of the self. So there’s no spontaneity or emotional range, just a continuous blank, fixed stare like he’s a traumatised Vietnam vet suddenly thrust into a music video. This isn’t acting we’re witnessing but the heat-death of charisma.

ii/ — Paul McCartney cannot write.

The plot to ‘GMRTBS’ concerns the missing master tapes for Paul’s latest album that appear to have been stolen by a former convict.

And that’s it.

I’m not joking as there is LITERALLY nothing more to the story than that because as soon as Macca discovers his tapes have vanished then what does he do? Bugger all! He performs some songs with his mates (there’s a nice version of ‘Wanderlust’ and a lively rendition of ‘Ballroom Dancing’), makes some music videos, plays on the radio but mostly saunters about in a Hawaiian shirt without a care in the world (way to ramp up that tension, Paul!). It’s not until TEN MINUTES before the end that he finally thinks — “Hmm, maybe I should try and find those tapes” — something that should have happened as soon as they disappeared over ninety minutes ago.

This reduces the drama to a state of total and uniform inertness and utter stasis. This is not story-telling but a form of narrative neglect (if the plot for this movie was a child then social services would’ve been involved immediately). It’s the wholesale vaporisation of meaning and the result is inevitable — complete boredom.

The songs not only fail to propel the drama forward but, somehow, act as musical retrorockets putting the film into fucking reverse, something best illustrated by a FIFTEEN MINUTE version of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ that’s nothing more than a Victorian fantasy inside Paul’s head (the film is filled with these, all clumsily executed) that, ultimately, provides no insight whatsoever other than filling up time and making me never want to hear ‘Eleanor bloody Rigby’ ever again.

When we do eventually discover why the tapes went missing it isn’t down to any nefarious organisation or wicked scheme but because someone got locked in what they thought was a toilet, so the reason ‘GMRTBS’ lacks any kind of drama or tension is because there was never any there to begin with.

iii/ — Turgid Direction.

Say what you want about Richard Lester (and trust me, I do!) but he at least knew that if you’re going to have the Fab Four dick about on screen then it needed to be driven by a shit-load of energy, the rapid BANG-BANG-BANG rhythm of a prestissimo metronome. In contrast Peter Webb’s direction of ‘GMRTBS’ has all the pulsing urgency of a heavily anaesthetised sundial. This would threaten to send the viewer to sleep if it wasn’t for the fact that, as we’ve already observed, this is a movie in a state of perpetual stasis where any form of potential transmutation, which includes that into blessed slumber, is an impossibility. ‘GMRTBS’ is a uniform unit of space/time that, once entered, denies any and all forms of metamorphosis into anything else, and certainly not into that of a ‘good movie’.

‘Give My Regards to Broad Street’ is astonishing in the magnitude of its psychological invariability, dramatic immobility and narrative paralysis. In that respect it’s required viewing because if you want to learn about story structure, engaging plotting, character motivation and adept screen-writing from what NOT to do then this could be the most vitally instructive movie ever made.

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Colin Edwards

Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.