‘The Quiet One’ Tells a Rock Star’s Life Story Through His Own Archives

The documentary focuses on Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, who built his own archives throughout his career.


Former Rolling Stone bassist Bill Wyman pictured with instrument. (via Susan Norget Film Promotion)

By Kaylee DeFreitas, Staff Writer

Sitting alone amid piles of cameras, photos, videos and more, Bill Wyman begins to give the audience a trip through the archives he has built across five decades. The former Rolling Stones bassist opened up this collection to filmmakers for the first time in 2014, and its material not only details the rise of the band, but also documents the man’s entire life in depth.

“The Quiet One,” directed by Oliver Murray, uses mostly voice-over from its subject, allowing him to tell the stories everyone knows — and the ones they don’t. This decision provides a connection to the subject that some documentary films lack and gives the audience a chance to feel a kind of kinship with the subject.

The film could have easily focused exclusively on the band, as the archives provide enough content to satisfy any Stones fanatic, or it could have taken a more distant approach to its subject through more interviews from people who knew Wyman. Instead, the film decides to limit the interviews, and even when it uses them, faces are never shown. This further illustrates how the documentary wants you to zero in on Wyman’s story.

Even when Wyman tells his stories and provides voice-overs, he never faces the camera; all of his shots are filmed from behind or the side. It isn’t until the end when we reach the present day that we finally get a full-face interview.

After the film, I couldn’t help but think about all the time and effort the documentarians and researchers for the film made when going through the massive archives find such perfect media and content for every moment. The story can tell itself sometimes, but it is through all the work the crew did that make the stories shine for a new audience. Even if the archives didn’t tell the stories, Wyman did.

“The Quiet One” doesn’t try to be overly exciting or enthralling. It aims to tell a real, honest story about a man who lived an extraordinary life in the background and, lucky for us, documented every second of it. As fun as it is to see the rise of the Stones and hear the behind-the-scenes stories, it is the smaller moments and his life beyond the band that make up the heart of the documentary.

“The Quiet One” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday.

Email Kaylee DeFreitas at [email protected]