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Film Review: “Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind” Shines Light on the Unsung Hero of Canadian Music

Written by: Patrick Howard | July 29th, 2020

Film poster: “Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind”

Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind (Martha Kehoe/Joan Tosoni, 2019) 3½ out of 4 stars.

Once again, I appear to be on a long run of excellent documentaries about subjects I should’ve known about ten years ago. Chalk this level of ignorance up to me, a millennial who still can’t fully utilize the online resources at his fingertips. In their new film Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind, filmmakers Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni pan their cameras over to one of the most cherished icons of Canadian music: Gordon Lightfoot.

Gordon Lightfoot stepped onto the Canadian music scene when the country was forming its musical identity. If you doubt this man’s impact on the music industries in Canada and the United States, then Kehoe and Tosoni will be quick to remind you of the countless covers of his songs, done by megastars like Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell. The fame and accolades of Lightfoot are unquestionable, and so is his humility. Lightfoot’s comments on his career are of genuine clarity. He rolls his eyes at the intense naivety and chauvinism in the first song that made him a star (from which the film takes its title). His alcoholism in the latter part of his career is a controversy typically seen in the lives of a lot of prolific musicians, and while this kind of substance abuse is inherently compelling, the execution here makes it a passable fair, at best.

Gordon Lightfoot in GORDON LIGHTFOOT: IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND ©Greenwich Entertainment

Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind makes a statement twice in its runtime that the evolution of Canadian music, starting with Lightfoot and the present popularity of Drake, should be noted for posterity. What makes this statement strange is it never becomes anything more than that. This is the wasted potential that is ever-present in your mind when you’re watching the film. If the filmmakers couldn’t get a sit-down with Lightfoot and Drake despite multiple attempts then I would understand. The statement alone is worth analyzing after watching the documentary, but, man, it would’ve made one hell of a storyline if it was given a chance to properly develop.

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Patrick Howard has been a cinephile since age seven. Alongside 10 years of experience in film analysis and criticism, he is a staunch supporter of all art forms and believes their influence and legacy over human culture is vital. Mr. Howard takes the time to write his own narrative stories when he can.

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