Documentary Movie Review: Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché (2021) #atozchallenge

Welcome to Panorama of the Mountains! My name is Liam and I enjoy watching documentary movies.  This month I will be reviewing 26 documentaries from A-to-Z!

Today, I’m cheating a bit and using the subtitle because I had more “P” movies that I wanted to watch than “I” movies. Documentaries starting with the letter Documentaries starting with the letter I that I have previously reviewed include: 

Title: Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché
Release Date: 27 February 2021
Director: Celeste Bell & Paul Sng
Production Company: Generation Indigo Films | Polydoc Films | Tyke Films | Velvet Joy Productions

I’ve only recently become acquainted with the music of the seminal UK punk band X-Ray Spex so I was eager to watch the biography of the band’s lead vocalist and songwriter, Poly Styrene.  The film is narrated by her daughter Celeste Bell and themed around Bell sorting through the artifacts of Poly Styrene’s career several years after her death in 2011, and reconciling the mother she knew to the punk icon.  Actor Ruth Negga provides the voice reading from Poly Styrene’s diaries.

Born Marianne Joan Elliott-Said, Poly Styrene grew up feeling isolated as a mixed race child in class conscious England.  Inspired by seeing the Sex Pistols, she formed a band which she fronted with her unique voice and anti-fashion styles. The themes of consumerism and artificiality are frequent both in her music and in this story of her life.  She reacted negatively to fame which intensified mental health issues.  Poly Styrene’s career as a punk musician was short but the movie also focuses on her later life, especially her time in the Hari Krishna movement.

I’ve read other reviews that note that a lot of the material in this movie is featured in other documentaries on X-Ray Spex.  But coming to Poly Styrene’s story new I found it to be a brilliant introduction to her life and career.

Rating: ****