Film Review

Flora and Son

todayOctober 12, 2023 107

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By Gareth Jones

For fans of John Carney’a ability to effortlessly integrate catchy music numbers effortlessly into narratives, oh and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Irish writer/director John Carney and Sundance have made quite the duo since he premiered his breakthrough film Once in 2007. That film launched the career of Carney as well as the unforgettable musicians/actors Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.  Once established his uncanny ability to interweave immensely catchy songs that appear to be created out of thin air by the characters on screen.  Like any great musical, the song’s lyrics mirror the characters emotions and allow them to express ideas and thoughts that they are unable to say in normal conversation.  The songs always push the narrative.  His experience as a bassist for the band The Frames gives him musical credentials but it is his mastery of the film medium that provides him the opportunity to create musical magic.

He has continued this streak with three other films that have premiered at Sundance, Begin Again, Sing Street, and now Flora and Son.

Flora and Son tells the story of a young mother in Dublin, trying to raise her teenage son, with an unsupportive father.  The son, played with a perfect teenage sneer by Oren Kinlan, is on the edge of following a destructive path.  Flora must find a way to give him a different option.  Enter a guitar found in a dumpster, and a search for an online guitar instructor.  Like his other films, Carney is able to present a reality of modern struggles in Dublin whilst also using some magical happenstance to connect the characters.  In this case, the two characters are Flora and Jeff, the online guitar instructor living in California.

This role was destined for Eve Hewson.  She was fantastic in her role on The Knick, but this film allows her to display her charm, her wit, and her musical ability.  As the daughter of Bono, she has a tremendous shadow to step away from and she does it magnificently here.  Her portrayal of Flora is heartbreaking and hilarious, and much like other actors with musical chops from his earlier films, Carney gives her the stage to let all of her talents show.  Equal to the task is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, giving us a reminder of why he was cast in so many romantic comedies earlier in his career.

There is no other director working today like John Carney.  His unique combination of musicianship, witty screenwriting, and deft direction has given us a series of films that are a joy to experience.  The songs and the emotions interweave to create an indelible impression on the audience.  His formula is magical.

Written by: jamric

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