- Emma Simmonds
- 22 March 2021
Rousing documentary detailing the tumultuous life and incredible success of singer Tina Turner
The Oscar-winning directors of uplifting high school football documentary Undefeated, Daniel Lindsay and TJ Martin detail the triumph over adversity of a far more familiar figure, living legend Tina Turner. Reminding us that stardom offers little protection from abusers, there's a lot of turmoil to get through in Tina's story before the singer is finally allowed to soar.
Beginning with a fiftysomething Turner working a vast stadium audience with incomparable energy and passion, we're quickly reminded that the road there wasn't easy when we hear her describing how the good in her life has not balanced out the bad. Born Anna Mae Bullock and raised in Nutbush, Tennessee, Turner recalls picking cotton at an early age and being abandoned by both her parents, whose own marriage was volatile. Later, she fell under the influence of Ike Turner, who she met in 1957, forming a musical partnership with and eventually marrying him, though years of violent abuse at his hands led Tina to flee in 1976, with her vividly recalling her emancipation here.
The filmmakers secure new interviews with the star herself, alongside many of the major players in her story, including her friend Oprah Winfrey, 'screen Tina' Angela Bassett, who was so mesmerising in What's Love Got to Do with It, Turner's husband Erwin Bach, her ex-manager Roger Davies, songwriting collaborator Terry Britten, and her biographer Kurt Loder. Given how open Turner is about the hardships she has suffered, the film does not feel sanitised, and even includes clips from a couple of old interviews with Ike (who died in 2007).
What's most astonishing is how Tina bucked the trend of being written off in middle age; how when her divorce from Ike left her with little but debt, she grafted, endured career humiliations and underwent a daring, rock-star reinvention in her 40s. Following years of fear and trauma, it's hugely satisfying watching the singer experience unsullied success, and find romantic happiness in later life, especially as someone who had long thought of herself as unlovable. The wealth of archive footage on display here is genuinely impressive, the music solidly rousing and there's particular joy in watching Turner perform live. Whether you're a fan or not, it's hard not to get swept up in the sheer strength of her story.