This year’s Sundance Film Festival debuts a documentary on one of music’s most controversial icons. Kathryn Ferguson’s documentary Nothing Compares provides an intimate look into Sinead O’Connor’s career. Ferguson’s unique perspective allows for a singular focus on the musician. Voice over interviews and footage of poignant moments across the globe illustrate a picture of an artist who has remained true to herself in the face of adversity.
The first thing that stands out is that Ferguson allows for this film to focus solely on O’Connor. Present day O’Connor is heard as she discusses her struggles with family, Catholicism, and growing up in patriarchal Ireland. Her voice is heard as we see glimpses of her childhood home, school, and the environment around her. Through a collection of news, concert, and old interview footage, a raw and real picture starts to take the shape of an artist who is sure of herself and stands up for her principles.
The film begins with O’Connor stepping on stage at Bob Dylan’s 30th anniversary concert. This concert is in the wake of one of the most memorable moments in live television history. Before the Dylan concert, O’Connor had taken the stage at Saturday Night Live and ripped a photo of the Pope while declaring him the enemy. The reaction at the Dylan concert is one of mixed appreciation and reprobation. This is the landmark moment that frames the narrative.
Chuck D of Public Enemy, Peaches, and many more interviews speak out in support of O’Connor’s bravery. The documentary succeeds in showing how O’Connor was ahead of her time and spoke truths the world is only just now accepting. From pedophilia in the church to systemic racism and abortion rights, O’Connor was mocked for her beliefs, but held her ground. Nothing Compares shows how a young discarded girl became an international sensation with her unconventional look and refusal to adhere to traditional beauty standards.
Nothing Compares is empowering and heartfelt. While the framing tends to meander a bit, the message holds steady. Sinead O’Connor is an unstoppable force.
The Sundance Film Festival is online January 20- January 30. Tickets can be purchased and a full lineup can be found here.
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