Type to search

Soundtrack review: Barry (Danny Bensi and Saunder Juriaans – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Barry (Danny Bensi and Saunder Juriaans – 2017)



“Barry” is a 2016 American drama film directed by Vikram Gandhi about Barack Obama’s life at Columbia University in 1981. It stars Devon Terrell, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jason Mitchell, Ashley Judd, Jenna Elfman, Ellar Coltrane, Avi Nash and Linus Roache. A look at the early life of Barack Obama. Before he became President of the United States, he was one of the few black students at Columbia University NY in the early 80’s. Faced with judgmental and racist opinions all around him, he tries to find his place in the world. Danny Bensi & Saunder Juriaans wrote the score.

This team of composers have emerged in recent years as one of the more exciting to listen to as they incorporate experimental elements that work in their scores; I must admit I’m careful not to miss any of their releases. Even “Barry” starts with a short title theme that’s jazzy exciting and it’s actually the sound they will go for throughout the score. As the second cue “Harlem” charms me I realise that it’s been a while since somebody wrote a score in this smooth and urban like sound with percussion and brass instruments that for me evoke autumn in New York in the 80s; I have seen enough movies set in then and there to be familiar with this soft and wooden percussion sound and the playful almost mysterious vibes. This particular cue makes me think of Hans Zimmer’s “Regarding Henry” as I feel the need to bop my head and snap my fingers to catch that rhythm. The music literally makes me want to go out in the early winter air and take a deep breath to enhance the feeling. Remember those street corner bands you kept seeing in the movies, who play with drum sticks on metal or wooden barrels, who improvise a music and a rhythm? The first couple of cues from “Barry” are just that.

Even when the tone gets a bit more serious as if to give a subtle political shade to the music, it still sounds great; it’s simple, melodic and optimistic and it gives me a good feeling. It’s one of those rare occasions when the music is impersonal, it doesn’t feel like it’s related to a particular story, but works because it’s almost ambient in sound and the atmosphere it sets it’s positive and healthy, there’s no other way to put it. Plus the smooth jazzy undertones sound fresh and to me this music brings a sort of nostalgia. The simplicity and ambient twist of the music are right up my alley.

With the different shades of ambient, from quietly emotional to playfully fresh, “Barry” gave me much more than I expected going in; it’s a short score but the emotional content is concentrated in this short dose for a bigger impact. Once again Bensi and Juriaans show that minimalism can be rich.

Cue rating: 93 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 18 / 26

Album excellence: 73%

A Smoke
Falling Apart
Dear Dad

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).

  • 1

You Might also Like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.