Film Review: “Bruce Springsteen's Letter to You” an intimate, well-crafted documentary

Bill Choy
Mount Shasta Herald

“Bruce Springsteen's Letter to You” is an intimate, well-crafted documentary that takes viewers inside the work process of rock legend Bruce Springsteen and his E-Street Band in the creation of their newest album. 

Letter to You is Bruce Springsteen's 20th studio album

Filmed in glorious black and white, the film lovingly shows the band piecing together the album “Letter To You” during a cold fall week in 2019 at Springsteen’s home studio in New Jersey.

Those who love Springsteen should enjoy this up-close look into the rock icon, as he puts together this deeply personal album, which reflects on the bonds of being in a band and of aging and dying, among other themes. One of the songs, "Last Man Standing,” deals with Springsteen coming to terms being the last surviving member of the first band he had been a part of, the Castiles, back in his high school days and what it means to him to now be the lone survivor. When I heard this song, it helped to hear Springsteen talk about the inspiration and the profound loss of his old bandmates to understand lyrics like those below better. 

“Flock of angels lift me somehow 

Somewhere high and hard and loud 

Somewhere deep into the heart of the crowd 

I'm the last man standing now 

I'm the last man standing now 

I'm the last man standing now”  

Knowing why Springsteen wrote this song and the others in the album through this documentary and his deeply personal process gives the songs an even more emotional heft and made me respect and admire what a true poet and songwriter Springsteen is.  

At one point in the film, Springsteen talks about "a burning need to communicate," using music as his outlet. For him, music has been for most of his life that outlet which he has shared with the world to great effect.

The documentary was directed by Thom Zimny, who has worked with Bruce Springsteen for 20 years, documenting live performances, the making of albums, and other film work. He is given full access to the recording process and we get to see the band work their magic together. It is clear there is a shorthand and a mutual respect and friendship between these talented musicians. At times they at times reflected and joke around as old friends do, but are mainly focused on the process and their work, making the songs in the alum shine to the best of the abilities. 

There are scenes with the band making suggestions, as Springsteen listens intently or making modifications. While this is a collaborative process, it is clear that Springsteen is in charge. After all, he is the boss. 

The film is gorgeously filmed and has a grace and beauty to it in the way he frames these people working together, mixed with the breathtaking forested scenery outside the studio that perfectly mix with the poignant lyrics of the songs. This film truly has a poet’s soul to it, as does the album. 

I enjoyed watching everyone in the band work so well with each other, and how they are not afraid to make suggestions or speak up when they might not fully agree with how things are going. You can tell the deep and profound respect for one another and their commitment and love of music. These are people that have been through so much together, and to see them still working together making great music after all these years is a joy to behold 

The viewer gets to hear Springsteen talk about each song and his inspiration, as he beautifully reflects on his inspiration for each tune and gives one a bit of insight into the man and his process. 

“Bruce Springsteen's Letter to You " makes a great companion piece to the album, which was released in October, the same time as this doc was released. 

 Here, Springsteen again shows what a profound and talented artist he is, that uses his rugged, haunting voice that speaks his truth in a wonderfully unique way. Overall, this is a reflective, well-crafted documentary that is certainly worth a look and a listen. 

Grade: B+. 

“Bruce Springsteen's Letter to You” is Rated TV-PG. Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes. 

The film is now available on Apple TV Plus.