A mesmerizing tale unfolds in the captivating documentary “Wynonna Judd: Between Hell and Hallelujah,” shining a spotlight on the remarkable journey of country sensation Wynonna Judd. This poignant film, tinged with both heartache and resilience, chronicles the artist’s real-time experience of a devastating kind of suffering. Last year, Wynonna tragically lost her mother and long-time singing partner, Naomi Judd, to suicide, leaving her shattered and seeking solace in the remnants of their shared legacy.
From its melancholic opening frames, which transport us to the early years of the Judds’ awe-inspiring performances, the documentary masterfully evokes a sense of longing and emotional resonance. However, while Wynonna herself is an indisputable superstar with a compelling personal history, director Patty Ivins Specht’s film largely sidelines this narrative in favor of a sweeping exploration of perseverance and the profound significance of unwavering support during times of tragedy.
As we accompany the singer on a tour originally intended to be shared with her late mother, the documentary seems to transcend its primary purpose and serve as a lifeline for those who have also endured loss. The complex bond between Wynonna and her sister, the acclaimed actress Ashley Judd, is delicately unveiled, showcasing their shared commitment to healing. Yet, the film fails to provide sufficient context for the challenges they face in rebuilding their relationship, leaving viewers yearning for deeper insights.
One poignant moment in the film finds Wynonna leafing through old family photographs at her mother’s home—an act that resonates with heart-wrenching specificity. In that instance, the audience can palpably feel the weight of her grief, fostering a more profound connection. Regrettably, the remainder of “Between Hell and Hallelujah” takes on the character of a performance-centric tour diary, exuding an energy reminiscent of a Hallmark movie. While Wynonna’s unwavering determination and graceful execution of her songs are undeniably admirable, Specht’s approach feels overly methodical and lacking in emotional depth, inhibiting the elicitation of genuine, unguided sentiments.
Without the rich tapestry of intricate details that breathe life into songs like the Judds’ iconic “Flies on the Butter,” the documentary becomes akin to a country tune with an abundance of chorus but a dearth of verse—a fleeting melody that fails to resonate deeply within the hearts of its audience.
Wynonna Judd: Between Hell and Hallelujah
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. Watch on Paramount+.