(Mostly) Fatherless Children

Kiefer Sutherland and Rocco DeLuca seek attention, validation and pints of beer in new documentary

In the documentary, which opens in Los Angeles for a one-week run on Friday (no Orange County screenings had been booked at press time), Sutherland serves as the tour's road manager. He lugs amps, sets up gear, leads toasts, puts out fires and pulls the occasional A-list string to ensure his pet project doesn't play to empty houses. The crew follows Sutherland and company into their dingy hotel rooms, small clubs and after-show parties, showing them in all their intense, puffy-faced, drunken splendor.

On the surface, there doesn't seem to be much remarkable here. There isn't enough time to allow DeLuca's music to really grab the uninitiated, and the documentary kind of tells us everything we already know: life on the road for a rock band is tedious and exhausting, punctuated by occasional moments of exhilaration.

But there's much more going on, including a rather interesting take on what connects Sutherland and DeLuca: tarnished relationships with their parents. True, they come from vastly different backgrounds. Sutherland hails from impossibly pedigreed stock (his maternal grandfather invented Canada's version of Medicare, his father's clan legally owns a big chunk of Scotland), and he is, apparently, on good terms with both parents. DeLuca, in contrast, has only met his mother once and hasn't seen his father in years. But Sutherland's parents divorced before he was old enough to talk, and his father was constantly on the road shooting films. DeLuca's father was a traveling musician, and his mother abandoned him at birth.

Lost boy
Lost boy
The Rocco road to success. Photo by Ted Newsome
The Rocco road to success. Photo by Ted Newsome

The film posits that the two are kindred spirits and tempts the viewer into playing armchair psychoanalyst, especially during one revealing scene when DeLuca is sound checking for that night's gig and delivers a lyric along the lines of "don't try to fix me, I was broken from the start." It's a phrase that reinforces the restless turbulence, underlying anger and occasional melancholia that fuel so much of DeLuca's music. The camera then cuts to a mesmerized Sutherland, himself a veteran of drunken carousing and soul searching. Both are still looking for their dad, and performing for him, on some level.

That's a heavy theme in an otherwise lighter film that is, at its heart, about a struggling band on the road. It shines brightest when conveying the incredibly chaotic nature of a rock tour at the grassroots level. Whether it's DeLuca refusing to play a New Year's Eve gig at a supper club or Sutherland passing out fliers and cajoling patrons in Dublin pubs to please see the band, it's clear that the road to success is paved in anything but gold.

DeLuca and the band have played at least 100 gigs and toured the U.K. twice in the eight months since the film was shot. He admits that now it's like other people are up on the screen when he watches I Want You to Kill Me. The passion is the same, but they've grown immeasurably as individuals and as a band.

In short, they're still working at it. And the film reinforces the importance of doing the work—on your terms. That's a positive message whether you're a struggling musician trying to make it in one of the most merciless of industries, or a successful movie star.



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