Review: Sound for the Future

Written and directed by Matt Hulse, using music of the period, archive, animation and recreations of key moments, Hulse explores his family history and the childhood punk band that he formed with his siblings.

One of the questions that arises from the opening of this film is whether the director and subject of the documentary is brutally self-aware or searching to feed his own ego? It’s something that becomes clearer as time goes on but it certainly leans much heavier on the latter. There’s a very unusual charm to it, one that isn’t immediately likable or unlikeable but curious and energetic. Hulse is relentlessly enthusiastic, he genuinely just does not stop at any point and it’s nice to see his commitment and dedication but sadly that’s overridden by his apparent desire to deal with his unresolved childhood issues through the making of this film.

This is where things get messy, while this exploration of family life, divorce and sibling infighting may work for some, for the most part it feels unbelievably narcissistic, which probably shouldn’t be surprising given that the director wears a t-shirt bearing the word ‘narcissist’ in the film. Yes it is self-effacing but not in a bracing or vulnerable manner, it simply comes across as self-indulgent. If there is anything to learn from the film it’s that the director can hold one hell of a grudge, can’t sit still and that being a child of divorce is something that can affect you well into middle-age, or even your entire life. It’s like a psychotherapy session for the filmmaker, who even actually goes so far to include talking to a psychiatrist in the film. The story sadly doesn’t hold enough interest because it’s the sort of project that seems to have been made with the filmmaker himself in mind rather than being made for an audience, severely restricting the number of people it can potentially connect to.

The style, editing and writing is similarly problematic, it has the erratic energy of its director and therefore doesn’t stay on one moment or topic long enough to create a solid story progression. It’s almost as if you took a much more natural progression and then put the footage in random order. The scenes of recreating his childhood punk band with actors are interesting and it’s nice to see the kids get so involved in creating these characters but it’s ultimately unrewarding as it leads to nothing, it’s creating a film within a film that never comes to fruition. It would have been nice to see the filmmaker include a short film of the work done by the kids at the end to round out the experience more satisfyingly. It also strolls into awkward territory when they take the children in character out into the real world, it’s almost embarrassingly vain.

Sound for the Future is an ode to the inability to move on or progress through childhood issues, it’s self-indulgent and a wildly restricted perspective. It feels as though it was made to simply help the filmmaker work through his unresolved emotional baggage rather than for an audience to enjoy. Ironically, the filmmaker’s mother who features in the film, feels like a more interesting personality to have followed. It’s unfortunately a far too specific story that might be much more interesting to people who personally know their family but taken out of that context into the wider world, it doesn’t have a lot to offer.

Verdict: ✯½

Selected as part of London Film Festival’s ‘Experimenta’ strand

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