SIFF 2022 Review: Nothing Compares

Year: 2022

Runtime: 100 minutes

Director: Kathryn Ferguson

By Joan Amenn

Sinead O’Connor was an explosive presence to anyone who was young in the 1980’s. Androgynous, furious and mysterious, she seemed to descend upon popular music like the wailing banshee from the folklore of her native country. For a brief time, she electrified a generation with her unearthly vocals and mesmerizing videos and then she seemed to self-implode.

Androgynous, furious and mysterious, she seemed to descend upon popular music like the wailing banshee from the folklore of her native country.

“Nothing Compares” (2022) is not a deep dive into the life of one of the most divisive music stars of the MTV generation. For one thing, the song that is referenced in the film’s title is not heard because the estate of the late genius Prince would not grant permission for its use. This is somewhat ironic considering the staggering success of Sinead’s cover changed her life forever. However, the singer is remembered as much for her defiant actions against those whom she saw as oppressive as she is for her ethereal voice.

For example, O’Connor’s protests against the Catholic Church are well known, particularly her infamous appearance on Saturday Night Live. Her public image was pretty much as shredded as that photo she ripped up after that. For every condescending talk show host who asked her infuriatingly arrogant questions, there is Kris Kristofferson who quietly encouraged her to sing to a booing, screaming audience and held her as she broke down afterwards. His gentle gallantry is a highlight of this documentary that shows how many others inflicted lasting trauma on O’Connor, especially her abusive mother.

Sadly, O’Connor’s turbulent life has not settled into a more peaceful cadence with age. Recently, her son committed suicide, leaving her devastated. “Nothing Compares” ends saying that O’Connor was a trailblazer that deserved better than she received in the media and this is undeniably true. Hopefully, this film will raise awareness of just how important her protests for women’s rights and other causes were and how relevant she still is in a world where the fight for justice continues.

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