20,000 Days on Earth is a highly polished, carefully constructed docu-fiction hybrid about singer-songwriter Nick Cave, an artist who’s all about construction, polish (dig those dapper suits), and self-invention. Directors Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth were previously commissioned by Cave to film 14 short making-of documentaries packaged with the recent reissue of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ discography. So they have, in their way, already made their definitive-ish biographical portrait of Cave, his band, and his music. This is not that.
Instead, 20,000 Days takes the form of an imagined day in the life of Cave, as he drives his luxury car to his therapist, has lunch with bandmate Warren Ellis, heads to an archive loaded with bric-à-brac from his past (a scene that includes a hilariously detailed breakdown on an instance when a German concertgoer urinated on Birthday Party bassist Tracey Pew that plays like a deconstruction scene from JFK), and snacks on pizza while watching Scarface with his twin sons. In between, we’re treated to scenes of Cave working through material for his latest Bad Seeds album, Push the Sky Away, live concert footage, and chats with past collaborators Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue.