Kurt Cobain: About a Son Reviews

Page 1 of 19
Super Reviewer
March 23, 2011

You want a part of me
Well, I'm not selling cheap
No, I'm not selling cheap*


Between December 1992 and March 1993, the music journalist Michael Azerrad interviewed Kurt Cobain for his book Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana, published by Doubleday. Almost all the 25 hours of audio taped interviews took place between midnight and dawn at Kurtīs house in Seattle, Washington. One year after the last of these interviews, Kurt committed suicide. Years later, Azerrad meets the director AJ Schnack and the idea of the movie comes in.

Shot in the three cities where Kurt lived, Aberdeen, Olympia and Seattle, and not featuring any Nirvana song or image of him until the very end, Kurt Cobain About a Son is something between a documentary and an (auto)biography where we see an honest (self)portrait of Kurt. At least, as honest as it can be. The use of random images and other music artists works when trying to give importance to what Kurt is saying, when trying to show the person instead of the icon. Gus Van Santīs Last Days, that focus on the icon (Kurtīs sun glasses, wearing a dress, etc) and use the silence to try to get into Kurtīs mind/world, works, but as a portrait of the character as we know it.

Childhood, fatherīs absence, adolescence, art, musical identity, depression, fame, life. It is an interesting view on the construction of a real character and on trying to discover the real person. Kurt wanted to be famous, but didnīt expect to become a "fucking cartoon character".


People do not deserve to know about my life private now. (...) The thing that I've always, that I've never understood, is the classic reaction to someone who complains that's in the limelight is like "well, you know, you made your bed, now you have to sleep in it. That's what everyone expects. You're public domain now, and everyone has the right to know everything about you." (...) I donīt agree with people saying: "everyone has a right to know." I have the right to change that perception. I have the right to change peopleīs way of thinking of celebrities. It should be changed. It should be different. They should be treated as human beings and respected (in their private issues).


*Celebrity Skin, by Hole. In the movie Kurt talks a lot about fame and its consequences, about the pressure over him and Courtney Love.


updated: I left the movie playing while working on other things. I prefer to listen to it than watching it. It was like Kurt was in my room, talking directly with me.




Super Reviewer
March 25, 2012
Great documentary. Got to know the man personally.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ June 19, 2013
This is not to be mistaken for that one film by the Weitz brothers, as it is "About a[u]n Angry[/u] Boy", even though I think it would be decent casting to get Nicholas Hoult as Kurt Cobain (He was a young Hank "Beast" McCoy, so I think he'll have no trouble with a prosthetic chin dimple). Hey, it's not like I was going to say Hugh Grant should play Cobain, because, well, first off, Grant is too old to play some guy who made it to the 27 Club, and plus, Cobain's music is tediously obnoxious enough without him breaking to stutter, "My Generation" style. Yeah, Kurt, your generation pretty much ruined rock, so I'd rather not talk about it, yet you, by all means, can discuss it, as it sure makes for a decent documentary, even if it does make for awful music. No, seriously, people, by saying that Kurt Cobain himself is free to discuss his generation, I mean it, as this film features a narration... "from beyond the grave"! Man, first it's Tupac and now it's Kurt Cobain; why can't we get posthumous material from people who actually recorded listenable music? Thank goodness Cobain is just talking in this film, even if he does sound like the dull depressed, drug-pumped bum that he exclusively was. No, I'm kidding, he was a decent, if deeply disturbed visual artist, but outside of that, I'm not saying that I'm glad he's dead, I'm just saying that I'm glad that I don't have to deal with his music anymore, even if his story is pretty interesting, as this documentary will tell, though not without hitting some bumps along the way.

The documentary is surprisingly very experimental, so much so that it is primarily driven by newly shot, symbolic imagery and offers very, very little, if any archived footage, thus, outside of the final couple of pay-off-esque images, you do not catch a single glimpse of Kurt Cobain, and sure, the imagery is effective enough, and Cobain's narration is heartfelt enough, for you to feel a great deal of intimacy with the focus of this artistic documentary, but you can feel only so much for a faceless voice. The film works better as a documentary told through a footageless interview than others would have, and that's especially impressive when you consider that this film doesn't even give you the common courtesy of archived footage, yet resonance goes limited by a lack of a visual presentation of Cobain, as surely as material goes limited by the specificity of the documentary's focus. I should perhaps emphasize that this film, in spite of its being driven by an interview that was conducted for "Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana", - a book, not so much about Cobain, but about Cobain's and his peers' efforts - is almost entirely focused upon Cobain's personal life, rather than his professional career, and that, alone, cuts huge chunks out of Cobain's story, whose presentation in this film still stands to take more time to flesh out what information is given. It's hard not to feel as though there's a touch too much of Cobain's story missing, and if you have plenty of time to think about it, because there are ironically moments in which the film upon material for too long, extensively mediating upon excess information, if not filler, for extended periods of time that, after a while, get to be repetitious and, by extension, detrimental to the momentum of the film, resulting in slow-downs that bland things up a bit and disengage, or at least exacerbate the aimlessness that this film never fully washes away. The interview that drives this film was, of course, simply Cobain showcasing points of interest in his life, unaware that the recording would go on to be the foundation upon which a bona fide narrative was built, and sure enough, the film's sense of direction isn't as clear as it probably should be, meandering along with limited narrative structure, and leaving your investment to gradually slip, until true reward value is finally lost. Sure, the film borders on more than just decent, as it is so effective in many ways, but natural shortcomings and certain other questionable aspects dilute a sense of momentum in this documentary that also stands to be more insightful as the reflection on a figure who did things I am anything but terribly appreciative of, but still had an interesting story that deserves better than this slightly underwhelming delivery. In spite of this, the film is well-done enough to earn your investment through and through, maybe not always to where you feel truly rewarding, but certainly to where you'd be hard pressed to not be entertained, even by, of all things, the musical touches, particularly the original ones.

Music is constant throughout the film, and when they're not classic tunes, they're original compositions by Steve Fisk and Ben Gibbard, whose score occasionally adopts a somewhat more controlled, but still rather questionable overstylization that plagued the documentary's focus' "music", yet is generally excellent, with a dynamic, refreshing and all around mostly tasteful marriage of rock style and neo-classical artistry that both entertains and helps in defining the documentary's versatile tone in a colorful fashion that goes matched by the color within most of the unoriginal musical touches. On a personal level, my primary concern with this film was that I would be subjected to music by Kurt Cobain himself, whose overblown, monotonously noisy and all around repulsively, soullessly misguided efforts were unique in the worst kind of way, and ended up being some of the most negatively influential challenges to tolerance of modern music, but, due to its commitment to meditating upon the personal life of Cobain over the professional one, this film is thankfully cleansed of products by Nirvana and, of course, the much less known and appropriately named Fecal Matter, and showcases Cobain's musical influences, such as, of course, some questionable ditties, but mostly classic tunes that entertain by their own right, while supplementing immersion value by giving you a better understanding of the diverse, if hit-or-miss tastes of Cobain, whose depths are further reflected by the film's more visual stylistic choices. Again, the film, as an experimental documentary, is more driven by visual style than footage, and such a unique storytelling method doesn't always work, but in a lot of ways, it breathes plenty of life into this study on Cobain's life, whether when its delivering on such lively stylistic moves as clever editing and the occasional nifty animated sequences, or providing symbolic imagery that cinematographer Wyatt Troll shoots remarkably well, with theatrical definition, as well as cinematic framing that is still kept tight enough for you to get an intimate feel for the subtle thematic depth of the visuals. As a uniquely stylish art piece of an experimental documentary, when the film isn't delivering on good tunes, it's, well, delivering on not so good tunes, but mostly on fine visuals that breathe some life into this study on the life and times of an icon, yet cannot compliment the effectiveness of this documentary's storytelling without first being accompanied by a narrative that is reasonably engaging on its own. As I said earlier, the film's focusing strictly on the personal life of Cobain limits material, and what material there is often stands to be more extensively meditated upon, but on the whole, there's still plenty of engaging information delivered in this fascinating study on Cobain's life, and such intrigue is typically augmented by AJ Schnack's direction, which stands to grace this narrative with a more focused structure, yet establishes a theatrically layered atmosphere that is consistently entertaining, and has those moments of true poignancy that leave you feeling the human depths of a man as flawed and tragic as Cobain. Schnack's inspiration behind directorial storytelling is palpable, sometimes to the point of establishing overambition that only emphasizes shortcomings, but generally to the point of giving you a fair sense of intimacy with Cobain that is, of course, most reinforced by Cobain himself, because even though Cobain's slow speaking voice blands things up a touch at times, and should be backed by more images of a face to go with the voice, it's impossible to fully ignore the down-to-earth humanity within Cobain, whose heartfelt telling of his own story immerses you in a highly unique way. Yeah, I still hate Cobain's music with every fiber of my being, and would still consider him one of the worst things to happen to modern music, but when it comes to the humanity through all of the misguided "artistry", sure, I have plenty more appreciation for Cobain after watching this poignant study on his rich and troubled life, which stands to say more, and do so in a more tight and focused fashion, but has enough style, depth and immersion value to keep you going.

When the scent of teen spirit finally dies down, this potentially rewarding documentary takes too many blows from anything as relatively light as a lack of a face to go with the narrating voice that would have more power as more than just audio, to such bigger issues as limited areas in information delivery, repetitiously overdrawn moments and aimlessness for the final product to fully escape underwhelmingness, but through a generally fine score and soundtrack, an effectively stylish and well-shot visual style, an adequate degree of interesting informativeness, lively, when not poignant directorial storytelling, and heartfelt narration by the late subject of the documentary himself, "Kurt Cobain: About a Son" stands as an entertaining, if flawed experimental meditation upon the life and times of an icon, tragic figure and, most of all, man.

2.75/5 - Decent
Super Reviewer
½ June 8, 2008
This is more than a film. The uncompromising honesty and profound artistry of Cobain's words cut right to the core of me. This is an absolute must-see for all true fans of Nirvana, and anyone interested in Kurt Cobain as a man and a musician.
½ February 15, 2010
An intimate documentary with an appropriate soundtrack that any Nirvana fan will appreciate. (First and only viewing - In my early twenties)
½ May 20, 2010
In a comment that is not meant to be as derogatory as it is as written: this is an insignificant movie. Even for Cobain fans, there is nothing that really brings more to fans, and gives nothing to casual or non-fans. From the start, I quickly tuned out and switched to putting on my computer while washing dishes. I didn?t need to watch the loose association and ambient artistic images. An occasional jab from a story Kurt would tell was interesting, but nothing particularly enlightening or terribly engaging.

But I ?watched? on, possibly because I had just vacationed in Seattle, or else it is because of the anti-charismatic charisma that Cobain has. There is no filter, and no real hiding. He just is. Whether contradictions or surliness or just fluff, you kind of wondered what he would say next.
May 2, 2010
A still-photography documentary but still a must-see for anyone who loved Nirvana and/or early 1990s grunge, especially those who actually lived in Seattle at the time. So many movies and novels have delved into the why's for Cobain but none have really shown a clear-cut reason for his mindset. Some believe he was just so sick with "The Establishment" and it's meddling with his music. Others believe his drug use simply overwhelmed him. It's apparent from watching this documentary and listening to the audio interviews that Cobain had been unhappy his entire life, but it took just one thing to set him off the edge. This doc comes close to answering the why, though does leave a lot to the imagination, which is probably a good thing. Nobody likes to think of the pain the man was in and nobody likes to reminisce about the loss of one of the last truly great talents rock music has ever seen.
½ December 31, 2008
I didn't expect this to be still image documentary. It took me a while to get you used to the visuals being displayed cause AI really didn't care for them. Although visually disappointing, the audio is fantastic. It was a true insight to what Kurt was like as a boy, musician, famous rock star, father, and husband. Overall I believe documentaries should not only tell you what they are documenting but they should show it too.
July 24, 2008
If you are a fan of Kurt Cobain or of Nirvana at all, I recommend this documentary. At first, I was not sure if I would like it because the film is pretty much just random shots from the places Kurt grew up with audio interview clips from Kurt playing. After getting into the film though, I realized how powerful it was to just have the audio clips rather than seeing a video interview. Kurt Cobain was an amazing and talented musician and a very engaging and insightful person. The film left me feeling sort of haunted... it definitely lingered in the room when it ended. I thoroughly enjoyed spending an intimate hour and a half with Kurt.
June 6, 2008
best movie evr i love it its about my fav singer/guitarist kurt cobain but its sad he died r.i.p kurt donald cobain 1967-1994
November 1, 2007
Interesting take on Cobain's character and bio through a combination of scenery shots and people's portraits visually and the singer's voice taped in intimate interviews played as audio. I learned several things about Cobain I didn't know, but it didn't go deep enough with such an amazing potential of a subject.
½ October 5, 2007
Great audio and the Aberdeen imagery was fantastic. Azerrad was a tool when he spoke to the audience
May 17, 2015
This is not a movie, this is an audio interview with some annoying visuals and completely unrelated songs.
August 4, 2012
A very interesting concept. Very heartbreaking, but revealing look into the life of Cobain. The movie does a great job of bringing him down to a human level and not making him some sort of demi-god.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ June 19, 2013
This is not to be mistaken for that one film by the Weitz brothers, as it is "About a[u]n Angry[/u] Boy", even though I think it would be decent casting to get Nicholas Hoult as Kurt Cobain (He was a young Hank "Beast" McCoy, so I think he'll have no trouble with a prosthetic chin dimple). Hey, it's not like I was going to say Hugh Grant should play Cobain, because, well, first off, Grant is too old to play some guy who made it to the 27 Club, and plus, Cobain's music is tediously obnoxious enough without him breaking to stutter, "My Generation" style. Yeah, Kurt, your generation pretty much ruined rock, so I'd rather not talk about it, yet you, by all means, can discuss it, as it sure makes for a decent documentary, even if it does make for awful music. No, seriously, people, by saying that Kurt Cobain himself is free to discuss his generation, I mean it, as this film features a narration... "from beyond the grave"! Man, first it's Tupac and now it's Kurt Cobain; why can't we get posthumous material from people who actually recorded listenable music? Thank goodness Cobain is just talking in this film, even if he does sound like the dull depressed, drug-pumped bum that he exclusively was. No, I'm kidding, he was a decent, if deeply disturbed visual artist, but outside of that, I'm not saying that I'm glad he's dead, I'm just saying that I'm glad that I don't have to deal with his music anymore, even if his story is pretty interesting, as this documentary will tell, though not without hitting some bumps along the way.

The documentary is surprisingly very experimental, so much so that it is primarily driven by newly shot, symbolic imagery and offers very, very little, if any archived footage, thus, outside of the final couple of pay-off-esque images, you do not catch a single glimpse of Kurt Cobain, and sure, the imagery is effective enough, and Cobain's narration is heartfelt enough, for you to feel a great deal of intimacy with the focus of this artistic documentary, but you can feel only so much for a faceless voice. The film works better as a documentary told through a footageless interview than others would have, and that's especially impressive when you consider that this film doesn't even give you the common courtesy of archived footage, yet resonance goes limited by a lack of a visual presentation of Cobain, as surely as material goes limited by the specificity of the documentary's focus. I should perhaps emphasize that this film, in spite of its being driven by an interview that was conducted for "Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana", - a book, not so much about Cobain, but about Cobain's and his peers' efforts - is almost entirely focused upon Cobain's personal life, rather than his professional career, and that, alone, cuts huge chunks out of Cobain's story, whose presentation in this film still stands to take more time to flesh out what information is given. It's hard not to feel as though there's a touch too much of Cobain's story missing, and if you have plenty of time to think about it, because there are ironically moments in which the film upon material for too long, extensively mediating upon excess information, if not filler, for extended periods of time that, after a while, get to be repetitious and, by extension, detrimental to the momentum of the film, resulting in slow-downs that bland things up a bit and disengage, or at least exacerbate the aimlessness that this film never fully washes away. The interview that drives this film was, of course, simply Cobain showcasing points of interest in his life, unaware that the recording would go on to be the foundation upon which a bona fide narrative was built, and sure enough, the film's sense of direction isn't as clear as it probably should be, meandering along with limited narrative structure, and leaving your investment to gradually slip, until true reward value is finally lost. Sure, the film borders on more than just decent, as it is so effective in many ways, but natural shortcomings and certain other questionable aspects dilute a sense of momentum in this documentary that also stands to be more insightful as the reflection on a figure who did things I am anything but terribly appreciative of, but still had an interesting story that deserves better than this slightly underwhelming delivery. In spite of this, the film is well-done enough to earn your investment through and through, maybe not always to where you feel truly rewarding, but certainly to where you'd be hard pressed to not be entertained, even by, of all things, the musical touches, particularly the original ones.

Music is constant throughout the film, and when they're not classic tunes, they're original compositions by Steve Fisk and Ben Gibbard, whose score occasionally adopts a somewhat more controlled, but still rather questionable overstylization that plagued the documentary's focus' "music", yet is generally excellent, with a dynamic, refreshing and all around mostly tasteful marriage of rock style and neo-classical artistry that both entertains and helps in defining the documentary's versatile tone in a colorful fashion that goes matched by the color within most of the unoriginal musical touches. On a personal level, my primary concern with this film was that I would be subjected to music by Kurt Cobain himself, whose overblown, monotonously noisy and all around repulsively, soullessly misguided efforts were unique in the worst kind of way, and ended up being some of the most negatively influential challenges to tolerance of modern music, but, due to its commitment to meditating upon the personal life of Cobain over the professional one, this film is thankfully cleansed of products by Nirvana and, of course, the much less known and appropriately named Fecal Matter, and showcases Cobain's musical influences, such as, of course, some questionable ditties, but mostly classic tunes that entertain by their own right, while supplementing immersion value by giving you a better understanding of the diverse, if hit-or-miss tastes of Cobain, whose depths are further reflected by the film's more visual stylistic choices. Again, the film, as an experimental documentary, is more driven by visual style than footage, and such a unique storytelling method doesn't always work, but in a lot of ways, it breathes plenty of life into this study on Cobain's life, whether when its delivering on such lively stylistic moves as clever editing and the occasional nifty animated sequences, or providing symbolic imagery that cinematographer Wyatt Troll shoots remarkably well, with theatrical definition, as well as cinematic framing that is still kept tight enough for you to get an intimate feel for the subtle thematic depth of the visuals. As a uniquely stylish art piece of an experimental documentary, when the film isn't delivering on good tunes, it's, well, delivering on not so good tunes, but mostly on fine visuals that breathe some life into this study on the life and times of an icon, yet cannot compliment the effectiveness of this documentary's storytelling without first being accompanied by a narrative that is reasonably engaging on its own. As I said earlier, the film's focusing strictly on the personal life of Cobain limits material, and what material there is often stands to be more extensively meditated upon, but on the whole, there's still plenty of engaging information delivered in this fascinating study on Cobain's life, and such intrigue is typically augmented by AJ Schnack's direction, which stands to grace this narrative with a more focused structure, yet establishes a theatrically layered atmosphere that is consistently entertaining, and has those moments of true poignancy that leave you feeling the human depths of a man as flawed and tragic as Cobain. Schnack's inspiration behind directorial storytelling is palpable, sometimes to the point of establishing overambition that only emphasizes shortcomings, but generally to the point of giving you a fair sense of intimacy with Cobain that is, of course, most reinforced by Cobain himself, because even though Cobain's slow speaking voice blands things up a touch at times, and should be backed by more images of a face to go with the voice, it's impossible to fully ignore the down-to-earth humanity within Cobain, whose heartfelt telling of his own story immerses you in a highly unique way. Yeah, I still hate Cobain's music with every fiber of my being, and would still consider him one of the worst things to happen to modern music, but when it comes to the humanity through all of the misguided "artistry", sure, I have plenty more appreciation for Cobain after watching this poignant study on his rich and troubled life, which stands to say more, and do so in a more tight and focused fashion, but has enough style, depth and immersion value to keep you going.

When the scent of teen spirit finally dies down, this potentially rewarding documentary takes too many blows from anything as relatively light as a lack of a face to go with the narrating voice that would have more power as more than just audio, to such bigger issues as limited areas in information delivery, repetitiously overdrawn moments and aimlessness for the final product to fully escape underwhelmingness, but through a generally fine score and soundtrack, an effectively stylish and well-shot visual style, an adequate degree of interesting informativeness, lively, when not poignant directorial storytelling, and heartfelt narration by the late subject of the documentary himself, "Kurt Cobain: About a Son" stands as an entertaining, if flawed experimental meditation upon the life and times of an icon, tragic figure and, most of all, man.

2.75/5 - Decent
June 17, 2013
It's a great thing to hear Kurt's story coming from Kurt himself. You get to know Kurt as if he was a personal friend. You really start to feel and understand one of the most misunderstood musician and a wonderful individual. An absolute must for any fan of Nirvana.
January 29, 2013
Aside from no footage of Kurt Cobain, this documentary come close to showing us the real Kurt Cobain
June 25, 2008
Don't remember this too well.
½ June 24, 2012
amazing portrayal of kurts life through not only but his own mind.
½ June 11, 2012
It takes a while for this music documentary to get on its feet; but once it does, About a Son proves both compelling and genuine. The cinematography can be easily misjudged as simplistic and repetitive, but to the trained eye serves as a visual parallel to the "not special" story of Kurt Cobain. As for Cobain's words, they are authentic and at times even haunting. There is no better way to understand a person's true soul than through their words.
Page 1 of 19