Biopics are not easy to perfect and when you’re dealing with an iconic figure such as Freddie Mercury, it becomes even harder. When this film was announced it seemed natural to feel a little bit of apprehension, because could anyone really portray Freddie? Who could bring him to life on screen before thousands of fans? Thankfully, for me at least, my worries were soon quenched as soon as I began to watch it. I thought was a stunning film and I have no problem admitting that brought tears to my eyes on several occasions.
Rami Malek was an excellent choice to portray Freddie, to the point where I found myself believing I was watching the man himself. His stage presence especially was spot on and the live performances were simply stunning to watch, especially with surround sound. I felt transported, part of the crowd, and it was such a special moment to share with the rest of the cinema. We become part of different times and places in a matter of minutes, giving you an idea of just how globally successful and adored Queen were. Despite the film’s main focus being Freddie, the supporting roles of the rest of the band were fantastic too, and I have so much praise for Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello for their performances.
Freddie dealt with a lot of discrimination during his career, particularly due to his race, sexuality and flamboyant personality. The film chose to portray these issues honestly, because pretending they didn’t exist would be an insult. When Freddie first starts performing with the rest of Queen, he’s greeted with questions such as “Who’s the P***?”, which for a modern audience is a terrible racial slur that I don’t even feel comfortable writing here. But for a Indian-British Parsi musician performing to a largely white audience in the ’70s, this word would have been used a lot. I feel it was important for the filmmakers to shed light on this as it provides context into Freddie’s upbringing and life that some may not have known about, including his real name: Farrokh Bulsara.
In terms of his sexuality, the film uses the role of the press to exploit and make a big deal about his personal relationships. The press conference scene was particularly uncomfortable as he’s bombarded with inappropriate questions instead of focusing on Queen and their music. He was constantly criticised in papers and magazines for simply being himself, and that’s a heartbreaking truth that Bohemian Rhapsody really hammers home. His long-term relationship with Mary Austin is also focused on throughout, and how that broke down but they still remained in touch. It’s a complex part of his life that the film does well to explore in just over 2 hours.
It’s not all bleak, and although these dark truths are explored, the film is fundamentally a celebration of Freddie’s life and extraordinary talent. Several Queen songs are present throughout the film and we even see the writing process behind some of them, my favourite being the creation of We Will Rock You in which they wanted the audience to play along with them through stomps and claps. The birth of Bohemian Rhapsody is comical in nature and received a lot of backlash at the time, but as we know, has since gone on to become an iconic song we all know the lyrics to.
Even in Freddie’s final days, after he was diagnosed with AIDS, the film encourages us to celebrate their music and make the most of the time Freddie has left, which is exactly what he himself wanted to do. I can’t think of a more respectful and considerate way to show it than that.
I could probably write an entire essay about just how much I thought Bohemian Rhapsody got right, but hopefully I’ve managed to condense my thoughts somewhat. This is a film you simply must experience for yourself, at least once.