Mistaken for Strangers

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“It sucks being Matt’s brother. He’s a rock star and I am not.” — Tom Berninger

Director: Tom Berninger
Year: 2013
Country: USA
Running time: 75 mins

Photography: Tom Berninger
Producers: Matt Berninger, Carin Besser, Craig Charland
Editors: Tom Berninger, Matthew Hamacheck
Music: The National

With: Tom Berninger, Matt Berninger, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Scott Devendorf, Bryan Devendorf, Brandon Reid, Dawn Barger, Carin Besser, Nancy Berninger

Festivals: Tribeca 2013

Few who harken to the alt-Americana sound of The National or the pining baritone of lead singer Matthew Berninger would expect their behind-the-scenes concert tour movie to contain quite so many gags or reminders of Spinal Tap as Mistaken for Strangers. Maybe it’s because his band is made up of two pairs of brothers that Berninger invited his own younger brother, Tom, along as a roadie – and allowed him to come up with this movie. A schlubby underachiever who’s made a couple of unreleased horror movies and would rather listen to heavy metal, Tom is a clownish foil to the cool, world-weary offstage Matt. He is also, as we see in the film’s ultimate concert scene, a bedazzled servant to Matt’s impassioned, onstage alter ego. Mistaken for Strangers is too confidently assembled for us to accept fully the purported extent of Tom’s ineptitude, but there’s no mistaking the authentic sibling grudge at work. Ironically, by embarrassing the gifted brother the world holds in grace, he renders him all the more knowable to us. What National fan will complain about that?