Anonymous Club – Film Review – Edinburgh International Film Festival
by Jamie Waddell
Director – Danny Cohen
Star – Courtney Barnett
Anonymous Club is a feature-length documentary following Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett over a three-year period BC (before covid). Written and directed by Danny Cohen, this is an intimate portrayal of Courtney the person; warts and all. We follow her as she tours around the world with her band before taking a short break and then embarking on her first solo tour, just her and her guitar out on the open roads of America.
Well known for wanting to stay as far away from the spotlight as possible, the fact she even wanted to make a documentary is interesting in itself. Danny is a friend of Courtney and when the idea of the film was being floated she demanded that he was the creative force behind it. Watching the finished product, you can see why!
This film gets under Courtney’s skin. We see her at the start of the film looking uneasy, on and off camera. She suggests she is awful at interviews and television appearances. Not at home in front of the camera at all, Courtney often looks past it at Danny for reassurance. Over the course of the movie, we see her walls starting to fall. Her shoulders begin to relax, she starts to crack jokes and you can see in her eyes she is happy to be spending time with her friend.
Throughout much of the b-roll footage in the film, we have pre-recorded messages from Courtney talking about how she is feeling day by day. An audio diary which she began to record reluctantly but then continues to do for the next three years. Heartbreakingly honest, she opens up and talks out the doubts she is having, the feeling that she is not worth the praise she often gets, her desire to just give up touring as it takes so much out of her mentally. Again, this is a testament to Danny as he has made her comfortable enough to share these thoughts and feelings so openly.
While most documentaries about musicians look to sweep away the cobwebs and show all of the amazing destinations and locations seen on tour, much of Anonymous Club is filmed within various hotel rooms. The focus is not on the life of a musical superstar but focuses on what that life can do to someone who didn’t get into it for the fame.
As someone in their mid-20s, I could not have related any more to the feelings she has of not quite fitting in, the feeling that her life is going nowhere. Even when she is on top of the world, her mental health can bring her right back down with a crash. It made me feel like I’m not alone in those feeling, something that could only come from the authenticity and trust of the relationship developed between Courtney and Danny.
Anonymous Club hit me in a way that was totally unexpected but that I am eternally grateful for. A film documenting the personal growth of one of the best indie-rock songwriters of this generation. The trust between Danny and Courtney allows for a genuine friendship to be captured on camera, giving us a peak into the life of a regular human with flaws and doubt, the person just happens to be Courtney Barnett. I adore this film and could not recommend it enough.