Frustrating documentary doesn’t do it’s fascinating subject matter justice…
Director Julian Temple has picked some cracking subjects to make documentaries about including Glastonbury, The Sex Pistols (twice) and Dr. Feelgood and in Clash frontman Joe Strummer he once again chose wisely.
The Future is Unwritten is a documentary about Strummer, not his most famous musical project The Clash so there is a lot to cover from his beginnings as a Woody Guthrie inspired folk singer through his years with the Clash and his introduction to World Music.
The problem with The Future is Unwritten is not the subject matter but the execution. Temple makes some bold stylistic decisions that don’t really pay off. The talking heads speaking so lovingly about Strummer are never properly introduced so only an expert would know who they are which makes for a frustrating watch. Most of the contributors are filmed whilst sitting around a camp fire, which rather than feeling intimate only serves to further distract from Strummer’s story.
On the flip side of this, the archive footage of Strummer is illuminating and at times inspiring and the soundtrack is as good as you would expect. As with Glastonbury though, The Future Is Unwritten most of all feels a bit like an incoherent mess and a wasted opportunity.