Nothing Compares  ‘Sundance’ Review: A fierce Subject approached by basic Filmmaking
Tragedies are impossible to dismiss. In 2020, the release of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s film Dil Bechara followed his unfortunate death. This gave the otherwise familiar and droopy narrative of the film some sort of a meta edge. Something similar wraps itself around the documentary Nothing Compares. Sinéad O’Connor‘s 17-year-old son died early this month. This was followed by her hospitalization after a failed suicide attempt. The thing is, these are two rare and vulnerable spots in the life of a fierce, headstrong woman.
Sinéad O’Connor’s entire youth has been a struggle to survive as someone unconventional. Her childhood and teenage were made up of intense oppression by the church, which of course grew in measure because of being women. Stories of rape and experiences of getting beaten up made a major part of her life. And yet, she somehow found solace in the sound of music and its echo through her voice. The only difference was, her start wasn’t a rebellion.
She didn’t really do it following the church conventions, but her music came from a lived-in space. However, as she progressed, she pushed the boundaries further. Her looks disrupted the norms of femininity. Her music disrupted Irish conservatism. Most of all, her ideas disrupted the oppressive forces of society. In many ways thus, Sinéad was a strong-willed and prophetic star. Her status grew even more iconic when she ripped apart the photo of the Pope on Saturday Night Live.
This is a fierce subject to deal with. She was one of the more important pioneers of contemporary British resistance and feminism. Her art conveyed a sense of rebellion without being dismissive of empathy. And yet, what also matters is her own personal relationships and restrictive pain. Kathryn Ferguson’s choice of material alone is a big win thus. And to be fair, she focuses on the most essential politics of Sinéad’s life. Ferguson’s is a glorious attempt to piece together a face of resistance, compassion and breaking free from traditionalism. If fiction, it could almost have been an anti-coming-of-age story with a young woman navigating out of the institutionalism. Technically too, the film champions the material. Cinematographer Luke Jacobs stirs the darkness of O’Connor’s life with impressive lightness. This is also the case with the composers’ Irene and Linda Buckley, whose music doesn’t overbear upon the material.
Also, Read: Tantura  ‘Sundance’ Review – A Well-crafted Documentary Of Brutality Gone Unpunished
However, Nothing Compares still feels diluted. Despite the sensitivity and honesty of the approach, it feels too basic. The beats are too generic, linear and conforming to tropes. Which is an irony considering the life of its subject, which was but a fierce resistance to those. The moments of potency are let down by the fact that it’s limited. The lack of narration hardly helps, because even without it, the film seems to hammer the rage of Sinéad, hence defeating the purpose. The reenactment of certain initial portions of this biography, in particular, feels like a terrible choice to convey the sentiment and where it comes from.
Stripped from its technical standpoints and marvellous subject, Nothing Compares is a mediocre and basic entry into the biographical narrative medium. With it though, the film works well where it does. It’s a generic, but watchable, documentary about what it takes to disrupt the very society in which you live. And to do so with double marginalization!