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Soundtrack review: Unrest (Bear McCreary – 2017)

Documentary

Soundtrack review: Unrest (Bear McCreary – 2017)

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In Unrest, twenty-eight year-old Jennifer Brea is working on her PhD at Harvard and months away from marrying the love of her life when she gets a mysterious fever that leaves her bedridden and looking for answers. Determined to live, she turns her camera on herself and her community – a hidden world of millions confined to their homes and bedrooms by ME (Chronic fatigue syndrome). Unrest is, at its core, a love story. How Jen and her new husband forge their relationship while dealing with her mysterious illness is at once heartbreaking, inspiring and funny. The score was written by Bear McCreary.

This seems to be the year that Bear truly gets out of his comfort zone and goes for the prize; just a few weeks ago I reviewed his magnificent score for “Rebel in the rye” where Bear channeled his inner John Barry and played with some jazz and now the chameleon is writing music for a documentary. I can say that the opening cue “Jennifer and Omar” is another winning new experiment for Bear because it sounds like a chamber orchestra composition that depicts a normal, joyful life through different sounds of strings.

The elegant undertone of strings that I imagine represent the frantic rhythm of day to day life continues to weave and weave and the playful orchestra tries to calm it down with the flute and the trumpet. There’s a lot of sounds from real life that Bear McCreary has masterfully recreated with an orchestra but the sound of an MRI is a first. Having recently been through a similar experience I can say that the way he put in music is frightfully close to reality. The “Magnetic resonance imaging” cue is not uncomfortable to listen though as Bear keeps the string section going over the pulses or the MRI machine. And it’s true, this is how it should be since when your head is in that tunnel the thoughts never stop and your mind does everything to block out the sounds of the machine.

I am listening to this beautiful orchestral score and I admire how much Bear McCreary has grown as a composer and how much he can do when given the right story; It’s wonderful to hear and experience the coherent variety in his music, from the romantic piano theme “Jessica” to the grungy electric guitar in Lee Ray and the playful tango melody of “Mysterious green stuff”. “No thoughts no words” brings back the angst and the haunting strings keep going.

A cue like “Conversion disorder” shows Bear’s love for the guitar and he manages to put an acoustic guitar motif in an orchestral cue and make it work wonderfully. I note once again how an instrument like the flute tries to bring hope and balance a dark cue. Pieces like this one should be on Bear’s desk at all times so he could show them to anyone who ever doubts his abilities as an all around exceptional composer.

The atmosphere of “Unrest” fits the title and the topic. The string motifs that claw constantly like the thoughts that lead to the extreme fatigue are present in every cue and leave their echo for me once the score is over. Bear McCreary manages to express honest human emotions like angst and pain, hospital machines and a bit of hope with another score to put at the top of his resume.

Cue rating: 89 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 21 / 39

Album excellence: 55%

Highlights:
The white board
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Jessica
No thoughts no words
Conversion disorder
Whitney
I am still here

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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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