Mistaken for Strangers (2013)

June 23rd, 2014
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director: Tom Berninger

Cast: Tom Berninger, Matt Berninger, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Bryan Devendorf, Scott Devendorf

75min  Musical Biopic   US

An unexpected surprise is this quirky and endearing account of brotherly affection and pride from Tom Berninger on the subject of  his older brother Matt, frontman of The National. They both grew up in a wealthy family but couldn’t be further apart in terms of success and sophistication. The suave and worldly Matt is under no delusions when he invites Tom to be part of the team on the 2010 World Tour; highly aware of his brother’s shortcomings. And Tom admits he’s no fan of the band.  So sibling rivalry starts to rear its ugly head from the outset with hilarious and often poignant results, and therein lies the entertainment-value of this quirky documentary, even for those who’ve never heard of the band.  This is, first and foremost, a study in self-sabotage (Tom’s) and family dynamics of the dysfunctional kind.  If you are a fan of The National, don’t worry: you will be rewarded with plenty of great tour footage – this is a doc that very much cuts both ways with something for everyone.

Strangely Matt and Tom are not the only brothers on tour. Four of the bandmates are also brothered-up (not literally) so this also makes for an interesting comparison study with some rich psychological undertones.  We discover the comfortably rotund, mop-haired Tom likes heavy metal and is still romantically unattached whereas Matt is a happily hitched family man with a sharp hair cut and tailoring that would do Tom Ford proud. And although the wheels occasionally threaten to come of the band-wagon, this is a tour with a upbeat vibe that never descends into the realms of bitterness or rancour. 

When the band gets back on homeground, the camera starts to focus more on the family angle with Tom talking to his parents about their childhood and the large age gap between the brother (9 years). At this point, Matt’s wife, Carin Besser, is wheeled in to reveal the challenges of the band’s formative years.  Well-paced and enjoyable throughout, Taken for Strangers is another successful music biopic that never outstays its welcome, ending on a positive and life-affirming note. MT

MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS IS SCREENING AT THE EAST END FILM FESTIVAL 2014

AND ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 27 JUNE 2014 NATIONWIDE

 

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