Today: May 21, 2024

Peter Doherty: Stranger in My Own Skin

Infamous Libertines and Babyshambles frontman Pete Doherty – uncommonly going by ‘Peter’ in this film’s title – has had a turbulent career and personal life that seldom saw him far from the tabloids during the 2000s. Through his storied battles with drug addiction, Doherty’s addictions have resulted in jail time and multiple trips to rehabilitation facilities. Since 2019, though, Doherty has been clean – and is now baring all in a powerful and deeply personal documentary directed by his wife Katia DeVidas.

This fly-on-the-wall doc follows Doherty through some of his darkest moments, and is often fairly difficult viewing as a result. There is an enormous bravery and vulnerability that comes with releasing this sort of film, and one certainly has to respect Doherty for revealing this raw, honest footage. It is certainly one of the most unflinching portraits of addiction ever put to screen. 

But despite this, Stranger in My Own Skin is frustratingly distant. The film rarely tries to offer any particularly deep insight into Doherty’s battles or indeed his work. Those looking for a biography of Doherty should look elsewhere – his work with The Libertines and Babyshambles is whizzed through in the film’s first act before we get into the misery and chaos of his life. Unfortunately, though, it’s hard to really gather what the point of the film is. Taken as a time capsule and compared to the clean and sober Doherty of today, it is an inspiring reminder that addiction can be beaten. But even this approach is barely explored.

The film doesn’t seem to know what it is or why it is showing us this footage. It is often very upsetting and tragic, but perhaps a more important film would be on that spends time analysing why so many young musicians find themselves in this sort of lifestyle, and indeed the lack of support that sees them pushed to continue performing and recording. While Stranger in My Own Skin certainly benefits on the one hand from Doherty’s involvement and the access to swathes of deeply personal and private recordings, there is an enormous amount lacking here when compared to – for example – Asif Kapadia’s masterful Amy, or Kevin Macdonald’s Whitney. These upsettingly similar tales of addiction and self-destruction are far better examined under a magnifying glass than at a distance. 

Peter Doherty: Stranger in My Own Skin is an upsetting snapshot of addiction that suffers as a result of staying at a distance.

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