Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson were mere children when they auditioned for The X Factor in 2010, with the exception of Louis, who was just 18. These boys literally have been working ever since the day they tried out, hardly sleeping, travelling the world, and forming fierce friendships. According to One Direction: This Is Us, they have barely seen their families as they’ve aged into adulthood – and this is what’s so riveting about this documentary, which is also known as 1D:3D.
Directed by Morgan Spurlock, the film follows the band on their 2013 Take Me Home international tour, during which they were also working on their upcoming third album. 1D:3D opens with a recap of the band’s formation for any non-fans in the audience, and continues with a mix of interviews with the members, clips of general hijinks between the young singers, and concert footage.
Advertised as a concert film, 1D:3D rarely shows performances in their entirety, but it does showcase lengthy portions of some of the band’s most famous tracks live, which is where the 3D shines. As a girl who grew up during the hype of the ‘90s boy band mania, I have to admit that I am jealous of the 1D fans who have the opportunity to see a 3D film version of their favorite band’s concert. It’s almost like you’re that much closer to Louis Tomlinson.
While the live performances are fun to watch, it’s definitely the interviews with the band-members that make 1D:3D a worthwhile documentary. They’ve been living their lives almost exclusively in the spotlight and it’s easy to feel like you “know” them, or at least have some pre-conceived notion of what they might be like. This documentary gives the boys the opportunity to humanize themselves, speaking their minds and showing us just how hard they really work. But don’t worry, Spurlock’s documentary doesn’t want you to feel bad for teen heartthrobs, it just wants you to have some respect.
The most touching moments in 1D:3D are interviews with the families of the boys, especially the parents. After encouraging their babies to audition for a music competition, their children became international superstars who can count the number of times they’ve seen their parents since on a single hand. An adorable segment in the film follows Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry, and Louis on a trip back to their homes. While most people like to fantasize about being famous, 1D:3D explores the truth of what “family life” becomes for young celebrities.
1D’s success story is unprecedented, given their rise through a combination of a reality competition show and social media, making their instantaneous whirlwind fame unique and even a little bit heartbreaking considering their ages and the dark track record of young popstars’ lifestyles. Revealing interviews with the boys in 1D:3D indicate that they do actually worry in a classic rockstar sense. Who will they be after the band, will they be friends forever, and who will love them, fame-aside?
There’s no shortage of tears in 1D:3D, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear myself when Niall sang the bridge of “Little Things.” The documentary doesn’t fall short in the category of crazy fan-footage either, presenting surging crowds of girls from around the world, in an almost inspiring way. It doesn’t matter if the fans are in Tokyo or Stockholm or Mexico City; their reactions are almost identical. In a weird way, these fangirls kind of remind you of the universality of mankind, or at least, fangirlism.
Lastly, 1D:3D presents the boys as down-to-Earth, normal guys who are aware of their blessings and don’t plan to throw everything away any time soon. Of course, a single viewing of 1D:3D isn’t going to tell you the secret thoughts of Harry Styles, but according to the documentary, all five members seem to truly value and respect each other as well as their fans. The conversations the boys have in 1D:3D are obviously attractive to the fans, but they’re also encouraging to anyone who’s gotten sick of the reckless lifestyles of young Hollywood stars.
The boys admit that their touring and recording lives can often be difficult – and we do see footage of them sleeping on the ground or not sleeping at all during the late hours of the night – but they respectfully refuse to complain.
Whether you run a 1D fan Twitter account, only know the chorus to “What Makes You Beautiful,” or have never heard a 1D song in your life, the respect that a viewing of One Direction: This Is Us demands for Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry, and Louis is difficult to deny. It’s a solid watch for anyone who’s fascinated by fame, and it’s an obvious must-see for fans.
One Direction: This Is Us entertains as a documentary about five young, busy men who hardly have time to talk to their parents, all the while stunning fans with concert footage and maybe a shot or two of the boys in their underwear.