I give Nothing Compares five stars because it is a bang-up documentary on the troubled life of Sinéad O’Connor. Cannot say I was an ardent fan of her music when she was alive, but I liked some of it. Her voice had no competition or comparison on the market.
Anyone who was raised Catholic or still is Catholic should watch this video. I left the church my senior year of high school and never went back. A big chunk of this documentary focuses around Sinéad’s upbringing as a Catholic and her love for the church. Much of this is in her own words, gleanned from interviews given over the years. Some of it from very recent interviews. Now that Sinéad has passed, most likely via suicide, it’s almost as if this movie was “her note.”
There is a sad chunk of the world that only knows Sinéad as “that girl who ripped up a picture of the pope.” Many may now the Joe Pesci monologue about it on SNL. (I love you Joe, but you were on the wrong side of this one.) Today most of us have heard of the pedophile priests and/or seen the movie Spotlight but Sinéad was roughly a decade ahead of the curve.
The footage from Magdalene is some of the most striking in the documentary. The Catholic church has institutionalized rape in Ireland. I need to watch the movie again (which you can for free on Tubi), but it sounds like Magdalene was one of many “work houses for fallen women.” The outside world spoke of them as prostitutes, but many had really been raped by priests, bishops, and “pillars of the community.” For the right “donation” if you were well connected to the Catholic church in Ireland, you could rape a woman then have her and the offspring kept by the church out of sight from the world at a place like Magdalene.
One thing the documentary makes pretty clear is that Mandinka wasn’t a song about the people, it was a play on word sounds and about her time at Magdalene.
All of the “I know no shame, I feel no pain” lyrics were references to the “fallen women” at places like Magdalen. It’s amazing just how many children were there. You see them in the photos and videos of the place during Nothing Compares.
There will always be much talk about Sinéad’s shaved head. Nothing Compares explains that in the words of Sinéad’s friends and her own. Sex sold, powers that be wanted her to grown long hair because most straight guys find that sexy. She shaved her head to piss them off.
It’s a true treasure that Nothing Compares found actual video footage of young Sinéad rehearsing with the band when she had short hair. She really was beautiful.
It was the eyes. Even with a shaved head they shined through.
Sinéad left this world at a younger age than I am writing this review. I had known she was what people call bipolar today. Heard that working in the Chicago area when Sinéad lived there. Sadly I never met her or went to one of her concerts. I can say that this documentary feels as if it left no stone un-turned exploring her childhood and rise. One of her songs, I don’t remember its name now, is about the time she was eight and her mother made her live for a week in the garden. Did not let her in the house the entire time.
When you watch Nothing Compares and hear all of this you wonder how anyone could not have went completely insane. That makes the footage of her smiling and laughing all the more stunning.