Berlinale FF 2021

Tina review – vibrant and moving portrait of a resilient artist

Tina Turner gets the final word in Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin’s elegant documentary revisiting the events of her tumultuous life

Tina Turner has had to tell the same parts of her story countless times over the last 40 years. The indomitable, incomparable musician has been asked the same probing questions about her marriage and divorce to Ike Turner, the salacious details of an abusive, traumatic relationship that put her on the map – and then saw her reinvent herself and rise from the ashes, time and time again.

Dan Lindsay and T. J. Martin’s luminous documentary Tina attempts to offer a definitive portrait of the superstar, as much for fans craving a generous film telling her whole story as for Tina herself, who, at long last, gets some closure. It’s an elegant, energetic documentary, a successful homage to a great artist that absolutely captures her spirit in full. The film, like the woman, is dynamic and earnest, frequently surprising and moving. It’s as much about movement as power, bottling Tina’s sensuality and verve with kindness and wit.

By splitting the film into five parts, the filmmakers explore the chapters of Tina’s life with clear shifts in mood, while following the same thread to honour the rich complexity of her story. We learn about her first marriage, her family, her solo career, her newfound contentment, and the love that keeps her going. Tina speaks to camera throughout, but doesn’t dominate. The talking heads are well chosen – close friends and colleagues – while a wealth of archival footage injects the film with all the excitement you’d expect from this hurricane star.

Turner's journey telegraphs the rise of an icon in the face of adversity, without any cloying stereotypes. Because Tina is so resilient, wise and respectful, the film feels that way, too. Rather than hearing generic niceties about a woman becoming independent, we see the granular detail of how she actually did it – how she became her own boss, reclaimed her name, reinvented herself.

Yet it’s still romantic – it wouldn’t be a fair portrayal of Tina Turner if it wasn’t. Lindsay and Martin allow themselves a few lyrical flourishes (a fireworks display bookmarking two chapters is a nice touch), but it’s mainly Tina’s own words that give you hope and warm your heart.

“I really needed love. I just needed to love a person,” she reflects in the final part of the film. Tina often grapples with the harrowing, traumatic parts of the musician’s life and takes great care to broadcast true feelings, rather than those that might have made headlines. But ultimately it becomes more about forgiveness, growth and peace.

The documentary ends by showing Tina in a good place, the film's journey crystallising just how much she overcame to get there. She’s survived everything, and Tina celebrates that – while telling us, once and for all, that she deserves to do so on her own terms.

Tina was screened as part of the Berlin International Film Festival 2021. It will air in the UK on 28 March on Sky Documentaries and Now TV.

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