Devastating, surreal, stylistic, and beautiful, One More Time with Feeling is the story of a man bleeding out, who takes the time to scrawl out a final goodbye. It hurts in the way anything that deals with loss and grief hurts. Yet, at the end, there is the music, and the knowledge that even after terrible things happen, life does go on. Art goes on, and it’s a long road, but there is a way to be happy after you lose a loved one.
One More Time with Feeling, the documentary about Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds and the recording of their sixteenth album Skeleton Tree, isn’t a typical musical documentary. In the first seconds band member Warren Ellis discusses the film’s primary theme: the death of Nick Cave’s son Arthur, who drowned, just 15 years old, on July 14th, 2015. But Ellis never speaks of the details. Truly, specifics are never mentioned by anyone. Soon after the director cuts, he explains that he needs to do the take again. The candid nature of the film is its strength. It’s a film about the making of a film; a documentary about the making of an album, which is also simultaneously about an artist dealing with grief, and trauma. One More Time is a wonderful and gripping meta-narrative about the creation of an album, the creation of a film, and the words of Nick, his band, and his family.
Arthur’s death is the monster behind the door throughout the film, rarely spoken of, yet the echoes of his tragic death vibrate in the music, and in the interviews with Nick, his wife, and the rest of the band. The frank discussion of the extreme trauma of losing a son clearly weighs heavy on everyone in the film, especially Nick. It’s refreshing to hear an artist be so honest about such an awful thing. Cave casts aside the myth that terrible tragedy is good for an artist. This brutal honesty and vulnerability makes the documentary more than a film about rock stars preening around, pretentious as the day is long. This is a film about a man pulling himself out of hell the only way he knows how: through his art, with his band, and with the love of his family.
Highly recommended, but bring plenty of tissues.
Sean M. Thompson is a writer from Boston. He has a B.A. in English from The University of Massachusetts. He loves horror and anything weird. You can find him at SpookySean.com