A rock-doc with a twist, Mistaken For Strangers takes us on the road with indie rock band The National. Filmed by Tom Berninger, the younger brother of lead singer Matt, what starts out as a straight forward account of a band on tour turns into something much more.
The documentary does a great job of promoting The National, a band that have completely and ashamedly flown under my radar up to this point. The band themselves come off well and the music is fantastic, but it’s the outstanding live performances that really made me sit up and take notice.
As soon as the film finished I searched for them on Spotify and listening to them as I write this, so there’s no denying the film is successful in growing the band’s fan base.
What really elevates the film to such great heights is the honest and no holds barred depiction of brotherhood. Basically a Jack Black-type character, we’re introduced to younger brother Tom as a metal-loving layabout who still lives in his parents’ house, as well as his older brother’s shadow.
An un-successful roadie with grandiose ideas of what life on tour should be like, Tom documents the daily goings on from the sidelines. As his brother Matt plays to thousands of people and gets to meet the president and other celebrities, the film becomes more about his mind sight as opposed to the music.
Tensions grow and you see the two brothers lock horns, but the deep rooted love between them is still apparent, and that makes for fascinating viewing. It’s touching, especially a moment where Tom re-counts one of his older brother’s past dreams, which I found to be lovely without being too sickly-sweet.
I love the film’s frankness and despite trying to manufacture certain poetic moments and put together interesting questions for the band, I think it’s great that questions such as “do you take your wallet with you on stage?” are asked; both ridiculous and inspired in equal measures.
Although I can’t comment on the character’s low-budget attempts at film making (which involve people going on killing sprees), the film demonstrates visual flare and on a technical level it’s really well made.
With likeable characters, great music, and a narrative that’s both moving and rewarding, Mistaken For Strangers is a rarity in the music documentary genre. It’s funny, touching and hits all the right notes.
Available on iTunes right now to buy or rent, there’s nothing stopping you from watching it right away.
Image credit to http://www.film.com