OTWO Reviews: Nothing Compares

Bold and irreverent, Kathryn Ferguson’s Sinéad O’Connor biopic details the meteoric rise and subsequent fall from grace of a woman who was before her time. Ribh Earls details how the movie reinstates O’Connor’s icon status while giving her the portrayal she deserved.

Nothing Compares, directed by Kathryn Ferguson, follows the journey of Sinéad O’Connor on her rapid rise to global stardom and the subsequent demise of her career. 

“I gotta tell you I’m really proud to introduce this next artist, whose name has become synonymous with courage and integrity” – Ferguson opens the film with a voiceover of Kris Kristofferson introducing Sinéad onstage at a Bob Marley tribute concert in 1992. She was met with echoing jeering and booing from the crowd. The contradiction of Kristofferson’s words with the crowd’s reaction to Sinéad lets us know there is a story about to be untangled. 

When she was growing up in 1970s Ireland, Sinéad was subject to emotional and physical abuse from her mother. Sinéad directly correlates this with the church’s influence on Ireland's population, particularly the generations of Irish women oppressed by it. The patriarchal, God-fearing society shaped Sinéad into the non-conforming artist that she was, and influenced much of her early music. She refused to let men tell her what to do. She shaved her head in response to her music label wanting her to accentuate her femininity so  that her image would be more profitable. She did not succumb to the pressure placed on her by her label to terminate her first pregnancy. She was an ally of the pro-choice movement, an ally to the LGBT and the Black communities. If she saw injustice, directed against her or others, she fought back.

If she saw injustice directed against her or others, she fought back

Ferguson uses clips from television interviews to highlight the blatant misogyny Sinéad was constantly subjected to as a young woman in the public eye. Among these are clips from her appearances with Gay Byrne on the Late Late Show. These act as a poignant mirror to Irish attitudes of the time, with Byrne patronising and mocking the young artist. She did not conform to what was deemed socially acceptable of young Irish women and for that she was ridiculed repeatedly by a man who was nationally admired. 

Though Sinéad was controversial and radical in her words, she wrote songs that captivated the masses. A picture of unconventional beauty, the world loved her. Until they did not. 

Sinéad’s infamous 1992 Saturday Night Live performance of Bob Marley’s ‘War’, a performance which she ends by ripping up a picture of the Pope, caused global media outrage. The abuses of the church were only starting to come to light so the “disrespect” displayed by Sinéad was seen as utter sacrilege. By ripping up the picture she set fire to her career when it was at its peak and unfortunately, it never recovered. To this day, O’Connor has no regrets.

Though Sinéad was controversial and radical in her words, she wrote songs that captivated the masses. A picture of unconventional beauty, the world loved her. Until they did not.

Ferguson chooses to end the film where she began. Sinéad is onstage at the Bob Marley tribute gig, with a defiant look on her face in front of a sea of hatred. In true fashion, she perseveres and belts out ‘War,’ two weeks after her SNL performance. After this she was blacklisted by all forms of media outlets.

This film does Sinéad justice, exposing the wrongs done to her by her family, fellow celebrities, media outlets, and by society. Sinéad’s strength, integrity, and authenticity permeates the screen throughout the film. There is no doubt that this film will prompt a rediscovery of Sinéad O’Connor and her work, through a new lens of respect and admiration. She was a true icon of her time.