Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

Review of "Stranger In My Own Skin" by Peter Doherty: The moments of honesty are truly captivating.
Culture TV and Radio

Review of “Stranger In My Own Skin” by Peter Doherty: The moments of honesty are truly captivating.


The third installment of films featuring Doherty, titled “Stranger In My Own Skin,” has recently been released. After waiting all day for a documentary detailing the turbulent life of the frontman for The Libertines, viewers were presented with a Channel 4 production about the unsolved death of Mark Blanco in 2006, which occurred after he attended a party with Doherty. In November, Louis Theroux also released a film focusing on Doherty’s newer life in France with his wife, Katia de Vidas, whom he married in 2021. Although “Stranger In My Own Skin” was initially shown in theaters around the same time, it is now being aired on television. The film delves into Doherty’s struggles with addiction over the years, utilizing personal and unflinching footage that has been collected since 2006. Directed and largely filmed by de Vidas, the film offers an intimate look into Doherty’s life.

This film is clearly geared towards fans of the subject, but while it offers a more personal touch, it may lack objectivity and perspective. Those who expect a detailed examination like Theroux’s style will be disappointed. Instead, the film delves into Doherty’s artistic endeavors and the adoration he has garnered over the years. It begins with a flowery introduction from Doherty himself, warning that the story may not be neatly arranged. This may make viewers question if they have the patience for the entire two-hour runtime. However, the film does a good job of capturing the excitement and energy of the Libertines’ early days and Doherty’s time with Babyshambles. As someone who was there for some of it, I can attest to the thrilling and chaotic atmosphere. While it may not have been on par with the Beatles in Hamburg, as suggested by James Endeacott in the film, it was certainly a significant moment in music history.

This is not primarily about the good old days, but rather the chaotic and inglorious circumstances surrounding Doherty’s long-standing struggle with drug addiction. He does not shy away from describing it in its raw form. De Vidas began filming him in Paris in 2006, well into his addiction and after the Libertines’ initial breakup. Doherty had been in and out of prison, making it uncertain if he would show up for performances. He recounts the moment he realized his dependence on heroin and in much of the archival footage, he appears restless and energized or lethargic and drooling. There are explicit scenes of drug use. One may question if, amidst all the talk of freedom and artistic expression, referencing figures like Wilde, Dostoevsky, and his beloved James Joyce, and using euphemisms like “laudanum” and “opium” for heroin, there is a risk of glamorizing or romanticizing his addiction and positioning him as a social rebel. Overall, I do not believe it romanticizes his addiction. It is so desperate and shocking that it often evokes feelings of sadness. Observing him in a state of delay, as he repeatedly puts off going to rehab in Thailand with just “one more bag,” is truly disheartening.

Theroux appeared to tap into Doherty’s enduring fondness for and fascination with drug use, but the film avoids delving too deeply into this topic. It depicts a life consumed by addiction, but only touches on more intriguing aspects without fully exploring them. He briefly mentions his troubled dynamic with his military father, his time in the spotlight of tabloids, and even his stint in prison, but these moments of clarity often fade away without much substance, leading to another tangent about art, literature, or music.

This can be a frustrating experience. You may find yourself wanting a more unbiased perspective, a focused viewpoint that can sort through hours of footage and present it in a less dreamlike and abstract manner. However, when the honesty and insight are revealed, it becomes captivating. For example, there is a scene where Doherty returns to using heroin and acknowledges that he knows he is on the wrong path and fears death. This scene is particularly poignant because Doherty did not want it to be filmed. The fact that De Vidas captured it is one of the advantages of being intimately involved. Years later, as he seems to have overcome his addiction, the scene serves as a symbol of hope and shows that he was able to move past it.

Avoid the newsletter advertisement.

Source: theguardian.com