Film review: The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson (15, 92 mins)

Dr Johnson’s foolproof Feelgood factor

Sunday, 19th July 2015, 3:00 pm
Wilko Johnson
Wilko Johnson

In 2009, singer-songwriter and guitarist Wilko Johnson appeared in Julien Temple’s documentary Oil City Confidential to wax lyrical about his beloved Canvey Island in Essex and share memories of his time in the band Dr Feelgood.

The musician and filmmaker reunite for this surprisingly uplifting portrait of terminal illness, which meets sixty-something Johnson shortly after the death of his wife.

Out of the blue, the singer is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It is inoperable and doctors grimly predict that he has less than 12 months to put his affairs in order.

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Johnson rejects chemotherapy, since it won’t extend his life expectancy, and he embraces the diagnosis by savouring every day.

He records a final album with good friend Roger Daltry, which turns out to be a critical and commercial success, and tours Japan.

Through the lens of Temple’s camera, Johnson achieves an odd sense of euphoria in the face of apparently certain death.