Sam B.’s review published on Letterboxd:
I am NOT a Nirvana fan. I respect its power, craft, influence, etc. I also find grunge generally unlistenable. It doesn't mean I think it's bad, even. It's just not my thing.
Whatever. This movie's still pretty damn good.
"Cobain: Montage of Heck" is not a love letter to grunge, or a hagiography of the titular man. It is an honest, moving, intimate, profound portrait of an enigmatic, troubled genius, seen through the eyes of those who strove, still strive to reach him.
It's a film whose power is derived entirely from the footage. That statement implies a lack of directorial craft, but I should stress that it is in fact the opposite. A definitive, powerful, dramatic narrative is spun through the presentation of documents, interviews, and home footage in very creative, effective variations. The footage itself, though, is left with minimal manipulation. The goal of the film is project an honesty. The film feels real, not in the sense that it feels like a realistic-feeling representation of Cobain's life, but instead as a highly stylized representation of a very real life. Sure, not everything reaches the transcendent devastation of hearing his mother talk about how the divorce affect Cobain, but the drive to connect with a forever unreachable figure propels the film throughout.
Cobain remains ever out of reach, but in that sense he feels infinitely more real. Unlike so many documentaries, "Heck" thrives on the dichotomy of never truly being able to fully understand the subject, but the value of trying as hard as fucking possible anyway.
This is all just a fancy way of saying that this film broke me with its humanity, its empathy, its pain, its sorrow, its mixture of specificity surrounding Cobain as a person and the universal truths running through his life. It's the rare documentary that makes me cry and also doesn't feel manipulative. It made me heart swell, then break, then swell, then break. It just felt so true. And, equally impressive, it made me want to revisit Nirvana.