It's no easy task to tell a person's life story in an hour and a half, and filmmakers have attempted to do this in a variety of ways. In Howard, director Don Hahn uses old photos of people and places, together with archive recordings from Howard Ashman's life, to try to let the subject speak for himself.
Hahn combines this archive material with a variety of interviews with the people closest to Ashman, including his sister, mother, best friend, lover, and colleagues. You definitely leave the film with a sense of who Ashman was, how he was formed, and what his life and work meant to those around him.
Interestingly, there are no talking heads in Howard, except in the archive footage. Hahn uses the interviews as voiceover narration only. This keeps the piece visually interesting and focused on the past, when Ashman was alive, though viewers may miss seeing the speakers as they are today.
Hahn also takes a bit of a risk with some staged scenes, including a child's room with toys casting long shadows used to evoke Ashman's early gift as a storyteller, and an empty auditorium where Ashman gave an on-stage interview the very night he found out he was sick. These feel a little odd at first, but they turn out to be the most memorable images after the film ends, their symbolism lingering on.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.