Published May 04, 2015Don't feel bad if you've never heard of Canadian pop group the Bells before. The band only existed from 1965 to 1973, produced one major hit ("Stay Awhile," which sold four million copies worldwide), and doesn't even have a Light in the Attic reissue to their name (which is surprising, because they seem like a perfect fit for the label, considering their first big single was called "Moody Manitoba"). But for a brief period of time, the Bells were the biggest band around, and not just in Canada (their methods for infiltrating the American market through Southern Ontario radio stations would be copied for years to come).
Jessica Edwards, daughter of original members Cliff Edwards and Ann Ralph, tries to keep their musical legacy alive in Stay Awhile, a deeply personal documentary that not only examines the history of the Bells and the band's dissolution, but how it led to her parents' divorce as well.
Featuring contemporary interviews from a majority of the band's members and spliced together with archival footage, Stay Awhile does a good job presenting the band's history and contextualizing their success in the late '60s and subsequent downfall. Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith also appears from time to time to talk about the band's impact, but most of his moments involve him speaking generally about being a musician, which isn't very enlightening for fans of either act.
During the film's latter half, Stay Awhile veers away from the traditional formula of a music documentary about a long-lost band and spends a large amount of time dissecting Cliff and Ann's divorce. Interviews are conducted over wine with Jessica's brother and sister, and both parents speak candidly about their split, but for some viewers, these segments may feel out of place and a little too personal, being that the majority of the film is a fairly straight-laced historical doc.
That being said, this is a band with a niche audience (most of which will probably never see this film unless it appears on the CBC), and although interest in the group may be reignited after this film's release, the strength of Stay Awhile seems to come from its depiction of a family dealing with divorce, and how the music — at least for a brief moment — kept them together.