While one of the most successful rock bands to rise from the indie scene in Brooklyn , Matt and his band The National sealed their artistic reputation in 2010 with the wildly acclaimed album, “High Violet”. They spent the next two years delivering sellout performances around the world.
Matt, trying to reconnect, gets his brother Tom a job with the band as a roadie, but Tom is incompetent and often forgets tasks and breaks a cardinal rule in the rock business; missing a bus call.
Tom gets fired but ultimately redeems himself as he stays on tour with his camera, making a great film about the band and family dynamics. One is a rock star, and the other is nine years younger and struggling to find his own identity in the shadow of his brother’s fame in the rock business.
The film feels like a reality show at times but transcends into a real look into the dynamics of these two brothers. One has found a successful career in the music industry and the other is floundering, living at home with his parents and turning 30 years old.
Matt, the front man, shows a lot of patience with his brother as Tom until he finally completes the film. There is a touching scene showing Matt encourage his brother to not shut down after a mishap at the first screening of the film when the projector breaks.
“Mistaken for Strangers” is never pretentious and surprisingly bold in the manner in which the director and his brother expose their inadequacies and strengths.
Matt said in the film that he invited his brother on tour because he left for college when his brother was nine years old, and hadn’t spent much more than holidays and family gatherings together since. “Now my brother was 30, and he was back living with our parents. I thought he was in a bit of a rut. I brought him on tour and he brought his camera along. I knew what he wanted to do is make movies.”
Tom often interviews band member Bryan Devendorf, who provides an objective view of Matt and Tom’s relationship.
There is a funny scene where he surprises Devendorf with one of his cheaply made gore films.
In a twist at the beginning of the film, Tom seems to live the stereotypical rock star lifestyle, often drunk and out of control. His brother, the rock star; is surprisingly very serious, collected and a bit melancholy.
Matt is married and his wife describes his life as The National’s front as just a job.
While this frustrates Tom, he parties enough for the whole band. There are a few strange shots where he is drunk and alone with his camera, filming his struggles through his own inadequacies.
At one point Matt opens up about how painful it was to play mostly empty bars at the beginning of his career and the constant pressure of creating music.
Tom travels home to a vastly different suburban atmosphere in Cincinnati to interview his parents who are reluctant to talk about himself and his brother when they were children.
I can’t think of a band with this much success that publicly explores the dimensions of their relationship the way his brother does.
“Mistaken for Strangers” is fun to watch, and despite his brother’s fame, Tom finally begins formulate his own identity.