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[SXSW ’21] ] ‘Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free’ review: An intimate look at a music legend

You wreck me.

Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free is an intimate look showing the iconic musician at work on his 1994 classic album Wildflowers. Using recently discovered 16 mm film, the documentary shows the artistic approach taken by the late legend. It also captures a musician in a state of change. Fans will adore the footage and music on display.

Petty exudes confidence throughout the film. It is not the cockiness of someone who knows they are a star and wants everyone to know it.. He has the assuredness of a person who knows they are one of the best at what they do. This is evident through Somewhere You Feel Free as Petty almost nonchalantly talks about his music making process.

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Change is a constant part of the film. Petty had a unique knack for staying current without sounding forced. He just always seem to be able to tap into the current musical zeitgeist. Somewhere You Feel Free sees the rock musician working with longtime hip hop producer Rick Rubin. The changes in Petty’s personal life also had a huge impact on Wildflowers.

[SXSW '21] ] 'Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free' review: An intimate look at a music legend

Despite Petty’s talents and confidence, he also had to confront doubts during the recording of the album. He saw the rise of grunge and had to go at it without the Heartbreakers (kind of). During the recording of Wildflowers, his marriage was coming to an end. Weaving in modern interviews give an idea of what a chaotic time in Petty’s career it was. 

Along with the found footage and interviews is some concert footage. As great as it is to see Petty in the studio, Petty is at the top of his powers while on stage. Many of the songs get their individual moments.  Somewhere You Feel Free also includes some animated sequences that fit the music if not the rest of the documentary.

Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free is an insightful look at one of music’s most celebrated figures. Equal parts musician and music, the documentary is a hard look at Wildflowers. It is fun, nostalgic, and a remind of how great Petty was. Fans will adore the film, but even those who are not familiar with Petty will enjoy the behind the scenes peak.

SXSW is March 16 – March 20. Tickets and a full lineup can be found here.

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