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108. Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché; movie review

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Title : 108. Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché; movie review
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Cert 12A
89 mins
BBFC advice: TBA

"Identity is the crisis, can't you see?"
How ironic that on the day I watched the documentary about punk singer Poly Styrene, Britain's racial divide race has been highlighted by a famous woman of dual heritage.
Whatever our view of the rights and wrongs of Meghan Markle's interview, it draws surprising parallels with the battles which Poly faced.
True, their backgrounds are very different - one is a kid from the council estate who wrote and performed songs and one is an actress turned duchess.
However, they both found themselves under the microscope of a hungry media and suffered mental health issues as a consequence.
Poly, real name Marianne Elliott, was the leader of X-Ray Spex, a band which had hits with Identity and Germ-free Adolescence among others.
She stood out because of her powerful singing voice, quirky fashion sense and braces on her teeth.
But she was shy off-stage, appearing reluctant in interviews - many of which are shown during this film by her daughter, Celeste Bell, and Paul Sng.
Bell narrates the movie which she sees as part of ensuring the legacy of her mum with whom she admits she had an erratic relationship.
The film takes us from Poly's early days in London, the daughter of a strong mother and Somalian father who was seldom around
She began writing songs while still at school and set up X-Ray Spex as a punk band which, unusually, had a saxophone.
And then she piled in with memorable tracks such as Identity, Germ-free Adolescence and the banned Bondage, Up Yours.
But she was always struggling with the pressure of the spotlight and the need to turn out more material.
Therefore, she disappeared from the public eye and sought spirituality by becoming a devote of Hare Krishna.
Celeste speaks honestly about how difficult she found the years as a young child and questions whether Poly was a good mother at the time.
Thankfully, she also speaks warmly of their reconnection before her mum's death.
Through this film, she has revealed much more about Poly Styrene than I would suspect most people would have known.
There was much more to her story than a hit-maker and her tale is well told.

Reasons to watch: Detailed and enlightening biopic
Reasons to avoid: Background knowledge needed

Laughs: None
Jumps: None
Vomit: None
Nudity: None
Overall rating: 8/10

Did you know? 
Poly Styrene formed her band after watching the Sex Pistols perform on Hastings Pier on her 18th birthday.

The final word. Celeste Bell: "My mum was 15 or 16 when she started composing those songs, she hadn’t done her O-levels but she could write this incredibly prophetic stuff and understand the world in a way I don’t think most of her contemporaries could. I am truly proud of her work and my long-term goal is to get more people to understand this." The Guardian

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