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“May It Last: A Portrait of The Avett Brothers” review

By: Carole Perkins

It may come as no surprise to fans of North Carolina’s Avett Brothers that their recently released documentary, May It Last: A Portrait of The Avett Brothers, landed on Rolling Stones Magazines’ list of 20 Must-See Movie To Catch at the Austin-based film festival SXSW.

After all, many of us fans have watched with dogged affection as brothers Scott and Seth Avett and bassist Bob Crawford ascended to fame from performing small venues like the local Green Bean to headlining shows at Madison Square Garden and other major festivals.

May It Last is an intimate diary chronicling the Avett Brothers collaboration and friendship with producer Rick Rubin on their multi-Grammy nominated 2016 album, “True Sadness.”

The documentary earned co-directors and co-producers Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio accolades in the ethos of humanist cinema as well as nods to editor Paul Little’s elaborate work pruning hundreds of hours of footage over the course of four years.

The film is a portrait set in a timeline starting with the band’s first day recording ‘True Sadness’ in Asheville, North Carolina, to laying down the last tracks at Rubin’s studio in Malibu, California. Along the way, fans steal glimpses into the lives of the Avett’s and their families, witness the band’s growth with new touring bandmates, and experience the support that lifted Crawford’s family up through their daughter’s brain tumor diagnosis.

Courtesy of Aperture Cinema

One of the highlights of the documentary is watching Scott and Seth collaborate on the song, “I Wish I Was.” A true act of brotherly love, they all but finish each other’s verses with what appears to be pure mental telepathy. It is an “aha” moment for fans.

Another gem is the scene when older brother Scott tries his best to unscrew a bottle top, finally, hands it to Seth who comically opens it with little effort. Their laughter is contagious.

The bond of sharing family values is the real essence of the documentary. It’s not just another made for T.V. film, it’s a soul-baring glimpse into the joy and pathos into the hearts and souls of The Avett Brothers band, their friends and families.

To fully grasp an understanding of this bond is to go backward in time. In 2003, The Avett Brothers released the album, “Carolina Jubilee” on their label Ramseur Records. (Dolphus Ramseur also appears in the documentary as a longtime friend and manager.)

On track 15 of the album, Papa Jim Avett conducts a precious interview with 5-year-old son Seth, 9-year-old son Scott, and their 12-year-old sister Bonnie. Jim asked Seth about how he feels about starting kindergarten and riding the bus with Scott.

“Now you won’t be left behind when Scott leaves for school,” Jim said.

“I hope he doesn’t hug and kiss me on the bus,” Scott replies.

“He’s your little brother so let him kiss your face if he wants to,” Jim said. Then almost to himself, Jim said aloud, “That will pass later.”

Jim was right. His son’s obvious love and affection for each other is evident on and off the screen.

In the film, Scott says he and Seth established trust very early as children. Their mother laughs as she recalls how Scott invented reasons to tag along when she and Seth ran errands in fear that Seth might be kidnapped.

“It’s amazing that they’re brothers,” drummer Mike Marsh agreed. “I’ve never seen brothers get along that well.”

In the final frame of the film, Scott, Seth and Bob are sitting outside with Rick Rubin. Seth is strumming his guitar and singing a song about C-Sections and Railroad Trestles while Rubin closes his eyes and sways to the music.

Those of us in the audience are mesmerized. I didn’t think it was possible to adore the Avett brothers more than I have for the last 10 years. But watching this documentary that reflects so eloquently their faith and love brings me to my knees with respect for them not only as musicians but as the men they’ve become. May it last.

May it Last is now playing at Aperture Cinema in Winston-Salem.

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