With a loose, rambling style, this documentary starts as a backstage glimpse of a rock tour before shifting into an exploration of brotherhood and finally into something much more self-reflective. It's a hybrid of comedy and emotion that gets under the skin even if the movie's central figure, director Tom Berninger, is both charming and deeply annoying.
As the film starts, Tom gets a job as a roadie for his older brother Matt's band The National, which is enjoying its first wave of success by staging a world tour across Europe and North America. Since Matt's bandmates are two pairs of brother (Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Bryan and Scott Devendorf), Tom feels like he completes the set. As a filmmaker, Tom has made a few cheesy horror movies, and now wants to make a rock-tour doc about his experience. In the process, he hopes to bond with Matt, because their large age difference means that they've never had much time to get to know each other. But it's quickly apparent that Tom doesn't have much in common with Matt, most notably because he's a heavy metal fan who doesn't really like The National's music.
Essentially, Tom is a Zach Galifianakis-like slacker who never takes any of his work seriously and seems like he would be exhausting to be around for more than a few minutes at a time. His lack of effort in his job seriously annoys the band's manager Brandon Reid, and the film Tom is making feels so unplanned that it meanders all over the place. But this allows him to find all kinds of natural humour in the situations, including some in which he's clowning around for his unseen camera crew. Several scenes are reminiscent of Spinal Tap, as Tom's goofy interview style makes the bandmates wonder if they should try to answer the questions or just break down laughing. And along with this endearing silliness, the film also captures some strikingly telling scenes that highlight the sibling relationship between Tom and Matt.
Continue reading: Mistaken For Strangers Review
Brooklyn-based indie rockers The National quickly rose to fame in 2010 with the release of 'High Violet'; their fifth studio album and their first release with 4AD records which shot to number three on the US Billboard 200 chart. Three years later they unveiled 'Trouble Will Find Me' which also peaked at number three and they have been selling out shows all around the world. The band are seen as a band of brothers, with guitarist siblings Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner, and bassist Scott Devendorf and drummer Bryan Devendorf. Singer Matt Berninger's brother has largely been left out of the spotlight - until now. 2010 saw them truly reach live stardom with their major US, UK and Europe tour which was largely sold out, and to make life on the road a little more interesting, Matt invited his metalhead brother Tom along for the ride - equipped, of course, with his trusty video camera.
'Mistaken For Strangers' is the result; a documentary directed by Tom Berninger in his filmmaking debut and full to bursting with interviews full of nonsensical questions, brotherly tension and self-discovery for our documentary-maker whose ambitions were initially doubted by his family. It's an emotional journey that earned Tom a nomination for a Free Spirit Award at the Warsaw International Film Festival. The movie is set to hit UK cinemas on June 27th 2014.
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.