Film review: Mistaken for Strangers, directed by Tom Berninger

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 August, 2014, 8:58am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 August, 2014, 8:58am

Mistaken for Strangers
Tom Berninger, Matt Berninger
Director: Tom Berninger

It took a decade of hard graft for indie rockers The National to attain the wider acclaim their music deserves. When they did finally land a chart topper - 2010's High Violet - the band's driving force and lead singer, Matt Berninger, decided to spread the love by inviting his younger brother, Tom, to come on tour as a roadie.

The two brothers couldn't be more different and this is what drives Mistaken for Strangers to near genius - that, and the bond of family the film unearths and celebrates.

Tom appears at first to be everything his successful brother is not: a dreamer who refuses to grow up, and a man content to not get absolutely everything out of life. That he has dabbled in film - putting together a number of low-rent sci-fi productions - inspires Tom to bring a camera on tour and document the entire experience. And, yes, it all goes horribly wrong.

Tom, it must be said, can be pretty annoying, so caught up in his own world that he appears to show no interest in the band or their music, turning the focus entirely on himself. And throughout, Matt nods and forgives and consoles and tries to work things out with the resigned air only an elder brother knows.

There are fabulous moments: Tom losing a guest list resulting in the likes of director Werner Herzog being stranded outside a show; the tour manager's slow and eventually complete mental disintegration in the face of Tom's ineptitude.

The viewer will come away with a feel for the band, their personalities and creative processes, but more than that the film is about the connection we have with our kin, and the commitment we should all have to support them - no matter how frustrating that can be.

Extras: Satellite Q&A with Tom & Matt Berninger, Summer Loving Torture Party, Finding Love on Tour with The National, A Naked Performance of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, Singing in The Mirror, Tough Questions, High Violet Commercial, LA Thirsty Rehearsal, Pre-Show Rituals, The Brothers Dessner, The Brothers Devendorf, Tom's Trips featurettes; Wages of Sin - Short Film by Tom Berninger; director's commentary; trailer.