Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes
Farran Smith Nehme,
New York Post:
The results are remarkably intelligent and entertaining, even for someone who (like this writer) finds Cave's music rather dirge-like.
This innovative study of Nick Cave playfully disguises itself as fiction while more than fulfilling the requirements of a biographical documentary.
20,000 Days On Earth doesn't try to be a journalistic, comprehensive study of its subject -- but with so much texture and atmosphere on tap, it doesn't need to.
Maybe "20,000 Days on Earth" is a vanity film. But maybe Cave has earned the right to be vain.
The title refers to the fact that the day chronicled is ostensibly Cave's 20,000th alive, though the movie is so slowly paced that 20,000 days seems more like the running time.
You don't just meet and learn about Nick Cave in "20,000 Days," you feel him.
This won't be for everyone, but longtime Cave-men (and women) will be bewitched, along with a fair share of folks drawn in simply by the film's unique investigation into the mind of an artist.
Los Angeles Times:
"Something happens onstage," Cave says, "where you forget who you are and become someone else." As much as any documentary can, 20,000 Days on Earth allows us to bear witness to what goes on in that process.
Singular exercise in self-indulgence, introspection and tongue-in-cheekiness by the solemn and magnetic Cave.
[Nina Simone] put a spell on him, and now Nick Cave, with his lugubrious sleights of hand, does much the same to us.
New York Times:
The pervasive mood is a brooding hyperawareness of time and the brevity of existence. Sensationalism and salaciousness are minimal.
It's a wondrous mix of the momentous and mundane, the profound and the perverse, with Cave blues-talking his way through the goofy juxtapositions, the darkness, and the light.
I'm not sure it can be considered a documentary at all, at least not all the way through. But "20,000 Days" offers an exceptionally intimate portrait of an artist who has sometimes sought to resist explication.
Minneapolis Star Tribune:
You might come away wishing he'd remained a bit more enigmatic. Then again, that morose rascal is probably just having us on.
Globe and Mail:
The film is so incessant on bolstering Cave's repute and noble struggle with the art of songwriting that it can't help but seem bloated and self-important.
We spend one day on Earth with Nick Cave, from dawn til dusk, via family, friends, a recording session and a gig, but it's just a neat device, and much of the film plays out like drama.
Near the end of the movie, Cave talks about living in the 'shimmering space' where imagination and reality intersect. He's talking about words and music, but he could be talking about 20,000 Days on Earth.
This is a doc with, among other things, a firm sense of place, and not just your random filmed Q&A with an interesting guy.
New York Magazine/Vulture:
Certainly for any fan of Cave's, 20,000 Days on Earth makes for a creative, enthralling journey through the man's world.
For the uninitiated, it offers a demonstration of what is so mesmerizing about this performer, who is by, his own description, "a kind of ostentatious bastard."