Courtney Barnett leaned over a table, writing in a notebook
Courtesy Music Box Theatre

How much sharing is too much? Do you deserve to feel sad or confused when on the surface everything is going great? If you’re Courtney Barnett, one of the most talented and sensitive songwriters to hit the music scene in the past decade, these are the kind of questions that will keep you up at night. 

Filmmaker Danny Cohen gave Barnett a Dictaphone and asked her to talk into it as she traversed the world on tours over three years, in support of her celebrated second album in 2018, and onward. There’s plenty of concert footage, as one would expect from any self-respecting music doc, but what makes up the vast majority of this intimate and affectionate portrait of a young creative person wrestling with success and with herself is a series of set pieces in hotel rooms and rented houses. Narrated asynchronously by Barnett’s taped recordings, these scenes form a kind of audiovisual diary in which the places she stays—none a permanent residence—illustrate her quest to find some kind of peace while continuing to grow creatively. 

In an era when the most minor celebrity tells a lot more about themselves than anyone needs to know, it’s refreshing to hear a true artist doubt her right to complain about anything and be so reticent to reveal much of her private life. Barnett shares her innermost thoughts in her songs as precisely and humorously as anyone who’s reached her level of fame. What this quiet little movie does is let us hang on the couch with her for a bit before and after she hits the stage. Feels just right. 83 min.

Special screening August 17 at Music Box Theatre, featuring post-film Q&A with Courtney Barnett