Good Ol' Freda (PG)

Documentary 86 September 6, 2013
By Ernest Hardy
Earlier this year, the documentary 20 Feet from Stardom struck a deep chord with audiences because its ostensible subject matter (the struggles and hard-won victories of the professional backup singer) was a springboard for stirring conversations on the natures of art and spirituality. Good Ol' Freda is neither as ambitious nor as accomplished as that film, but audiences may find themselves similarly moved, as much for what the film says about the best of human nature as they are for the chance to be immersed in a rich fount of rare images and sounds of the Beatles. As a teenager, Freda Kelly lucked into the job of answering the band's mail and serving as an invaluable conduit between the foursome and their fans. She was with them from their very early club gig days, right up to their breakup. Director Ryan White has crafted a deceptively simple film that should almost immediately win viewers over with its low-key charm as Freda, now a beaming grandmother, finally breaks the silence she's held for over 50 years regarding her stint in the Beatles-Industrial Complex. As she regales viewers with the Fab Four's trajectory from promising upstarts to global icons, a tale fleshed out with jaw-dropping film clips and photos, we also get her own working-girl Cinderella story, the film's huge heart. Still fiercely protective of her boys, she humanizes them and offers not a thread of salaciousness. But it's her own unwavering kindness (her words on the Beatles' late manager, Brian Epstein, and his struggles with his sexuality are especially generous) and integrity (she's refused tell-all book deals for decades, and her reasons for speaking up now have nothing to do with money) that drive the film, turning it into a surprisingly satisfying and moving experience.
Ryan White Jessica Lawson, Ryan White Kathy McCabe, Ryan White, Jessica Lawson Magnolia Pictures

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