Review by David Baldwin Will Wong
SIDNEY, fresh off its World Premiere at TIFF’22 just under two weeks ago, is a lifetime sprawling Documentary centred around the legendary Oscar-winning Actor Sidney Poitier – from his early years in the Bahamas as the son of tomato farmers, to his first acting gigs, to his part in popular culture during the Civil Rights movement, and everything that followed.
Much like the man himself, is a powerful and emotional Documentary that had me constantly enthralled and fascinated (and forced me to make meticulous notes on all the films I need to catch up on immediately). It does not cover any ground that long-time fans will not already know and does not offer any new insights, but hearing these interview subjects discuss and share stories of their relationships and experiences with Poitier alongside the talented artists who credit his larger-than-life influence having an immeasurable impact on their lives and careers, is inspiring and genuinely astonishing. They all talk from a place of love (including his daughters and romantic partners) and watching them get choked up on their words and emotions is beautifully moving, as is the footage of Poitier himself articulately and brilliantly discussing his life story. Together with his narration and the footage/audio Director Reginald Hudlin and his creative team were able to assemble here makes for an experience you will not quickly forget.
All of that said, I think looking past those surface level feelings comes the notion that SIDNEY feels like two movies battling for supremacy. On one side, you have interview subjects fawning over the performer and his accolades, outright giving into propping up the mythical and stoic worldview of Sidney Poitier. And on the other side, you have a warts and all Documentary with Poitier himself coming to terms with his upbringing and the mistakes he made along his path to stardom. It is no wonder why these moments – many of which arrive in the first half of the Film – are more resonant than the ones that come later. Worse, so much time is spent on his rise as an actor and his role in the Civil Rights Movement, that it feels rushed and sloppy when it begins moving towards what happens next.
That may sound like a pan, yet I do not think SIDNEY is a bad film by any stretch. It is a compelling, inspiring story about a remarkable individual who had a seismic effect on the industry and filmgoing at large. It could and should have been a greater introspection on Poitier’s career on and off the camera, but as it stands, it is still quite lovely and well worth watching.
SIDNEY streams exclusively on Apple TV+ starting Friday, September 23, 2022.