Mistaken For Strangers Review

Mistaken For Strangers (2014)

Directed by Tom Berninger, featuring Matt Berninger, Tom Berninger, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Bryan Devendorf,  and Scott Devendorf.

bhaskar chanda mfsTom Berninger’s Mistaken For Strangers is so much more than your average, run-of-the-mill rock doc–it’s a generous and vulnerable contemplation on family, success, and happiness, and a bold statement about what music documentaries are for. The premise is simple: Matt Berninger, frontman of indie smash hit and critical darling The National, invites his brother Tom to come on the band’s largest tour yet as a roadie. An aspiring filmmaker (if he aspires to anything at all), Tom brings his camera along in hopes of making a documentary based on his impressions of a ten-year-old band as their popularity is soaring. What follows is a profoundly funny and touchingly sincere portrait of two brothers as different as different can be. Amongst beautifully captured clips of performances in exotic cities and cameos by celebrity fans, we get to go behind-the-scenes of behind-the-scenes and see Tom’s fumbling in both of his duties, as a roadie and as a filmmaker. He asks bemused band members inane questions, or instructs them to pose and recite goofy phrases he’s come up with. The result, while perhaps not being the performance-minded rock and roll saga many National fans might clamor for, in the end manages to capture the similarities between the two brothers and the art they create. In many ways, Mistaken For Strangers is a film equivalent of a National album–it’s shabby and unglamorous and as it turns inward, it doesn’t hide from the dark. 4/5 stars.