The Music of Strangers

“Sometimes we can turn fear into beauty.”

Three years ago the Morgan Neville directed ‘Twenty Feet From Stardom’ won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. The documentary focused on the behind-the-scenes lives of backing singers such as Darlene Love (who provided backing on many of Phil Spector’s 60s hits) and Merry Clayton (she of ‘Gimme Shelter’). Three years on and Neville’s follow-up documentary has simillar themes to its predecessors. Both are music-oriented and look at the often tragic stories of extraordinaries talents. Yet the films differ in one major way – his latest is far more macro in approach, using the musicians he focuses is on to look at global issues and the universality of music. Neville and the musicians he  interviews share a belief that music is the one language that transcends all and allows for global communication.

It’s a beautiful message and one that is explored well in the film. He also does a good job at exploring the back stories and motivations of some of the world’s greatest, and mostly unknown, talents. However his narrative styles almost prevent these stories being told or at least as fully explored as they could and should be. The story hops and shifts from one story to the next with little cohesion between one story and the next. His chosen approach lets the story he is telling to become unfocused and ultimately unsatisfying. The music is wonderful, literally goosebump-inducing, yet there isn’t enough. There are wonderful sound bites about various important topics, but there aren’t enough. There are capsule portraits of five musicians, but these aren’t given enough time. It’s all appealing and interesting stuff…it just isn’t enough.


The Music of Strangers is released in UK cinemas on November 18th. 

Dir: Morgan Neville

Country: United States

        Year: 2016               Run time:96 minutes

Cast: Yo-Yo MaKinan AzmehKayhan KalhorCristina PatoWu Man.


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