Published Apr 09, 2014Few indie rock bands attain the level of fame and critical praise that the National have garnered over the past few years, but that doesn't mean that a documentary about the popular Brooklyn-via-Cincinnati band would be inherently interesting. Luckily, Mistaken for Strangers is a tour doc told by singer Matt Berninger's younger brother Tom, and it's the complicated, brotherly tension between them that holds the film together.
Tom is the underdog to Matt's golden boy frontman persona, an unemployed metalhead and aspiring filmmaker that has obviously lived in his brother's shadow his whole life. These frustrations come out when Tom joins the band across the pond as their tour manager's assistant. The gig goes predictably sour as late nights of partying, carelessness on the job and general annoyances lead to Tom getting fired before the end of the tour.
It becomes as much a film about the process of making a film once Tom returns home. From ill-prepared interview sessions to getting in the way at gigs, the picture painted of Tom is a rather pathetic one of a well-meaning little brother that Matt makes an effort to tolerate. While the other band members are visibly irritated by his presence and prodding questions, Tom nevertheless manages to come off as endearing and empathetic throughout, presenting the band from the perspective of an outsider who hasn't fully embraced the idea that he's an outsider.
For fans of the National, there is still solid live and behind-the-scenes footage, but it's the family rivalry and reconciliation that anyone watching will be able to relate to.
Mistaken for Strangers opens at Toronto's Bloor Hot Docs Cinema on April 10 and will include a special introduction from the National before the screening. The National begin their three-night sold-out residency at Toronto's Massey Hall on April 9.