One More Time With Feeling Compassionately Captures the Darkest Time in Nick Cave's Life

The rockumentary about Cave's new album and the death of his son is haunting.

At no point in this film is Nick Cave's career or life story discussed. Even the event that shrouds One More Time With Feeling in inescapable heartbreak—the tragic death of Cave's teenage son Arthur in 2014—is only alluded to. Nevertheless, this is an enthralling and revealing picture, and fans of the Australian cult singer-songwriter will relish another chance to catch this exquisite black-and-white immersion in the recording of his critically acclaimed album, Skeleton Tree on the big screen.

As in Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard's 2014 experimental documentary on Cave, 20,000 Days on Earth, the musician's thoughts are often narrated. He dispels our expectations. We assume the death of a child will lead to outbursts of grief, and an album that plumbs gothic depths. Instead, Cave relates that his life has changed irrevocably: He finds no narrative in existence. He cannot recall the person he was a short time ago. Yet, his disarray and confusion cannot stand in the way of an elder statesman artist making a fine album.

One More Time's palette of ashen grays and deep blacks are appropriate for the subject. A 3-D camera weaves its fish eye through crannies and walls and around the studio in revolutions. It helps maintain visual interest through nearly two hours of monochromatic interviews and musical performances in Cave's home and a nearby studio. This allows director Andrew Dominik (Killing Them Softly) to tackle a somber subject with enough care to transmute the elegiac into the sublime.

If anything ties this film together, it's Cave's family and friends. While he's a compelling subject on his own—and remarkably vulnerable—it's his relationships with his musical partner Warren Ellis and his wife, Susie Bick, that anchor Cave's ability to work through his grief. Ellis not only helps Cave focus, but he brings much needed humor to the proceedings. Bick puts on a brave face here, a face she had previously refused to reveal in 20,000 Days on Earth. She too must persevere, and she does so by throwing herself into her own work as a fashion designer and mother to Cave's surviving twin son. 

Critic's Rating: A.

SEE IT: One More Time With Feeling is unrated. It screens as part of the Reel Music Film Festival at NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium. 9 pm Saturday, Jan. 21. $9.