It can be difficult to fully forgive. Forgiving others can be trying, and self-forgiveness can sometimes feel downright impossible. Rocketman, the glitzy, musical biopic of Elton John’s life, is grounded in forgiveness, and channels the redemptive attitude of the iconic British pop star.
Elton’s past relationship with alcohol and drugs is widely known, and his rise, fall and recovery is covered in Rocketman; the film dips in and out of his past as he tells his story from rehab. In 2001, the real Elton John extended a chance at recovery to another star struggling with addiction – Robert Downey Jr.
At a time when Elton disliked appearing in his own videos, Downey was cast in the music video to ‘I Want Love’. Lip syncing to the melancholy song in one take, it was his first return to acting after a tumultuous period of battling addiction and attending rehab, and afterwards his career returned to a steady incline before rocketing with the release of Iron Man in 2008.
The video is stark, personal – as much Downey’s as it is Elton’s – and the journey of recovery, self-acceptance and self-forgiveness is shared by both stars. The energy of ‘I Want Love’ is all over Rocketman; Elton (played by the incredibly charismatic Taron Egerton) battles with feelings of self-hatred after his parents reject his sexuality, and self-medicates with drugs, alcohol and sex. He only begins to get better once he realises that he has to accept himself and forgive his own mistakes in order to move forward and find the love that he’s looking for.
In an undoubtedly cheesy but effectively sincere scene at the film’s emotional climax, Elton faces everyone in his life who has contributed to his unhealthy idea of himself, and sheds their dead weight. Given a second chance, he starts anew, leaving rehab to the triumphant ‘I’m Still Standing’, to share his spirit of acceptance with the rest of the world.
Ultimately, the understanding and forgiveness that runs through ‘I Want Love’ is what gives Rocketman true spirit; everyone has demons to battle, but sharing the burden can make us feel a whole lot less alone.