This eye-opening warts and all portrait (originally released in 2011) of English singer and songwriter Lawrence – perhaps better known as the frontman of indie pop bands ‘Felt’, ‘Denim’ and ‘Go-Kart Mozart’ (these days ‘Mozart Estate’) follows the musician over an eight year timespan… during which it becomes evident that here is a man one could describe both as talented and deluded in equal measures, his own worst enemy in fact. At the same time he could be called the ultimate survivor despite his bad luck and commercial failures.

By his own account, there must be something wrong with him “because no one has come this far and still not made it”. During 86 minutes of psychological dissection we get an inkling as to what may have gone wrong… Yes, bad luck certainly runs into it but then there’s also Lawrence’s inflated ego, his urge to be a control freak, and his utter obsession with being rich and famous – huge steps before the baby steps so to speak. Here is a musician who openly admits that it doesn’t matter if friendships end up by the wayside because what really counts is fame. Lawrence also blames his buddy Bobby Gillespie (of ‘Primal Scream’) for never having introduced him to Kate Moss, angrily contemplating that he would have been so much better for her than Pete Doherty and that he could have set up a joint bank account with Kate – her millions and his dole money rubbing against each other and of course her money would come in handy because that way he could produce new albums. If you think the comment was made in jest, well, it was not.

At the start of Paul Kelly’s docu we see Lawrence, original hailing from Birmingham, evicted from his pad in Belgravia – court orders and letters from landlords inform him that due to his unsavoury lifestyle (prescription drugs and methadone come into it) and overdue rent have led to the decision to make him homeless, at least temporarily. Cursing the London tube (“The day I don’t have to take the tube anymore will be the day I f*****g celebrate”) while in the same breath also cursing his parents (he has absolutely nothing in common with his stupid family) paints a picture of a sensitive artist hardened by his surroundings and the facts of life. Drifting aimlessly we follow Lawrence at rehearsals for ‘Felt’ followed by a few gigs – later on he and his band briefly travel to Paris where the tabloids seem to know more about him then the British music outlets – during an interview with a journo the conversation ends up rather depressingly, what with Lawrence still hoping to find fame (but it just isn’t in sight) while the journo in question reveals that he doesn’t make a living out of being a music reporter but has a ‘normal’ job as he has kids to feed.

Back in ole Blighty Lawrence keeps on working and dreaming, falling out with musicians, falling in with others while his mental health becomes ever more fragile. Forced to sell his much loved guitar (originally bought for a mere 12 quid) in a music shop in London’s Tin Pan Alley (that’s Denmark Street for you readers) and pondering over the pros and cons of vinyl records (“Anyone who has a digital music device holding more than a thousands songs hanging from his ears must be an idiot”) we can sense that permanently broke Lawrence favours the old time approach to listening to music, firmly believing that music should be presented and preserved in paper and cardboard sleeves and not in plastic cases. Playing pool in between writing new material we also see him briefly taking up residence at the abode of his mate Pete Astor – followed by hospital stints due to his mental condition. Eventually he is allocated a flat in a grim tower block (complete with veranda) somewhere between Old Street and Hackney. Never one for throwing in the towel we follow him recording new material in a recording studio in Stoke Newington and discussing the new album sleeve with a graphic designer in Muswell Hill. With his new formation ‘Go-Kart Mozart’ in the make (his ‘management’ even insists on a new make-over which sees Lawrence exchange his trademark trucker cap for a Peaky Blinders-style tweed cap) we find out just how unlucky Lawrence’s career has been from day one and hell, he wasn’t always to blame: just as his 1997 single ‘Summer Smash’ (performed with his then band ‘Denim’) promised at least something resembling success, EMI decided to shelve the single following Princess Diana’s fatal car crash that same August over concern that the song’s title might be in poor taste. How unlucky can you get? Nonetheless, Lawrence carries on regardless, hoping to earn a crust by becoming a radio DJ or even a rock n roll pensioner. After three failed commercial successes we see him standing on the veranda of his tower block, pondering over the meaning of life and over why things have gone so wrong for him.

For Paul Kelly (who collaborated on film projects with ‘St. Etienne’ among others) this was a labour of love which took years to complete. Kelly would reveal that Lawrence would often vanish for months on end with no means of contacting him. The filmmaker’s perseverance and patience paid off for LAWRENCE OF BELGRAVIA is easily one of the best portraits of a singer/musician ever to be released.

Speaking of, the film has just been re-released in HD on Blu-ray, BFI-Player, iTunes (what would Lawrence say?) and Amazon Prime. Among the Blu-ray bonus material fans of Lawrence can find audio commentary by Paul Kelly; ‘Lawrence of Belgravia’ Q&A at the 55th London Film Festival 2011; original trailer; alternative title sequence; deleted scenes; poetry readings; illustrated booklet (first pressing only).