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Soundtrack review: He named me Malala (Thomas Newman – 2015)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: He named me Malala (Thomas Newman – 2015)


“He named me Malala” is an intimate portrait of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was targeted by the Taliban and severely wounded by a gunshot when returning home on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The then 15-year-old (she turned 18 this July) was singled out, along with her father, for advocating for girls’ education, and the attack on her sparked an outcry from supporters around the world. I remember this incident…the documentary is scored by Thomas Newman and I think his melodic and intimate sound should fit the story very well.

At first glance the score follows Newman’s usual recipe of many short pieces. Each cue averages 2 minutes. The score opens with a piano tune which feels more alive than I expected. Usually I praised Thomas Newman for the effective simplicity of his work but this time there is a different depth, something I have rarely heard since “Angels in America”. I am quite happy as the score progresses because I had gotten used to this composer writing in his usual style without many surprised. This time he brings an extra layer of emotion and employs more instruments.

Still, “He named me Malala” is a classic Thomas Newman score. His sound is one of the most easily identifiable and unique and he’s gotten so good at it that I think he almost writes from inertia. The same thin strings, chimes and light mood we’ve grown to appreciate, like I said, with an extra touch. There are some ethnic inserts as well which remind me of his “Exotic Marigold Hotel” scores.

It’s hard to find highlights ore memorable cue in a score like this. This again is a special thing about Thomas Newman: his compositions flow together well as if they were one big suite. It doesn’t matter where one cue stop and the other one begins, at least I can’t hear the distinction very often. There are 26 cues on this score and they could very well have been 10 or 18 and it would have made no difference. His music is modular and doesn’t vary much.

“He named me Malala” is a Thomas Newman score. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s thin and light as a balloon and has that feeling of eternal summer and hope he is so good at expressing. His fans will find the joy they expect in this one while casual listeners will be left with a smile on their faces. Me, I loved the most the final section from “Refugees” on.

Cue rating: 82 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 10 / 53

Album excellence: 19%


A Pashtun Story

I Am Malala

The Women


Speak What Is In Your Soul

The Same Malala



Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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