Review: Springsteen, E Street Band deliver rich 'Letter to You'

Apple TV+ documentary looks at the making of the Boss' latest

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Bruce Springsteen's ongoing musical conversation — and the recent trend of lending that conversation a filmed accompaniment — continues with "Letter to You," an intimate if not altogether revealing look into Springsteen and the E Street Band's latest album. 

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in "Letter to You."

Following last year's "Western Stars," which found Springsteen discussing the themes behind and performing his 2019 album inside his cathedral-like New Jersey barn, "Letter to You" gathers Springsteen and his E Street bandmates in the recording studio while they put the finishing touches on the group's big, hearty, robust new album.

In voiceover, Springsteen talks about the meaning behind the songs, which reach back to his New Jersey roots and address questions of faith, purpose, life and death, the driving topics of Springsteen's lifelong quest for truth. He's soulful, contemplative, and choosy of his words, and rarely wastes a syllable. 

In the studio, we see Springsteen and his longtime bandmates working out some final kinks — "Little" Steven Van Zandt suggests the dropping of a chorus here or there — and performing finished versions of the songs. The performances are interlaced with stark black-and-white drone shots of snowy New Jersey meadows, which director Thom Zimny, Springsteen's collaborator dating back to 2005's "Born to Run" making-of documentary, renders gorgeous. 

But there's little revealed about the creative process, or how the songs themselves came to be. Cameras pick up the process with the songs mostly completed, and we hear overdubbed versions of the studio recordings in their final form. Which is fine, but it's like we're catching "Letter to You" as it's being delivered, rather than being written. Still, anytime we get correspondence from the Boss, it's worth holding onto.


'Letter to You'


Not rated: language

Running time: 86 minutes

On Apple TV+