Few filmmakers romanticize music—its magical ability to move and transform us—more than John Carney. His victory was once (2007), which follows an Irish busker in Dublin with a guitar and a Czech pianist, won over audiences, won an Academy Award for Best Song and inspired a Broadway musical. Flora and Son Not a remake, but Carney certainly borrows the tropes of his previous film, from the hard lives of his characters to the story that involves their attempt to write a song together, and a plot that inextricably links romance and music. becomes But why not borrow and tweak such a winning formula?
Flora and Son Eve Hewson has a great turn as Flora, the young mother of a 14-year-old boy, Max (a very natural Orion Kenlan), his petty theft threatens to land him in juvenile detention. As she does in the last series bad sisters Hewson takes the flawed but good-hearted humor of a character and makes him sympathetic, likable, and fully human. Only 17 when Max was born, Flora lived as a child, but not an emotional angel of a mother. He is first seen dancing and drinking in a club. He curses his son in anger. Most of the time, she’s at the quiet end of what to do with him, while her ex, Max’s father (Jake Raynor), is too big a kid to help himself.
When Flora finds an old guitar in the dumpster, she restores it for Max. But he refuses one day after he forgets his birthday (thanks, mom), so he decides to take lessons on his own. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Jeff, a teacher he finds online, a once-promising musician living in Topanga and now teaching the groomsmen for $20 each. When Jeff raps about his passion for music and its power to affect us emotionally, he might as well be channeling the emotions that shape Carney’s film. The dialogue may have sounded like hot air rhetoric, but Gordon-Levitt makes it completely believable, and gives Jeff an understated charm that creates a dynamic of passion that contrasts with Flora’s boldness.
Flora and Jeff’s zoom sessions are more lively than you might expect. At first, fueled by a large glass of wine, she comes to him, and the next day writes a heartfelt apology. Their connection is evident even through their screens, and when the lessons start to get interesting, Karni is woven into the music that enhances the film. The original lyrics are by Gary Clark and Carney, who also did the music together Song Street (2016), an action film about 1980s teenagers who form a band. The new songs are mostly songs, some deliberately amateurish – Jeff will never be a star – and others funky. Gordon Levitt and Hewson do their voices, in voices that are sweet, light and gentle.
Carney’s point, throughout his films, is that music for its own sake is one of life’s greatest gifts, a point Jeff helps Flora make. When his own mean composition about Topanga fails to move her, he sends her a video of Joni Mitchell singing “Both Sides Now.” He’s not oblivious to the difference between Mitchell’s talent and his, but that will never stop him from playing.
Music also depends on styles. As he teaches Flora, Jeff sings songs by Tom Waits and Hughie Carmichael. And as the story progresses, Max starts mixing music tracks and adding rap songs on his laptop, and Flora helps him make a music video for a girl who He likes it. Every time it seems like the next steps in the rom-com plots are obvious, though, Carney veers off in different directions.
Carney and production designer Ashley Jeffers have a strong feel for the detailed structure of the characters’ lives, especially Flora’s chaotic apartment, which is covered with ashtrays and wine glasses. There is nothing flashy or attractive about the visuals here. The cinematography and editing are nothing short of solid and functional. Carney relies on a flat shot/reverse shot style for most of the film. But in a few beautifully acted scenes, Jeff actually appears in Flora’s kitchen or in the park where they zoom, bringing her passionate imagination to the scene as their relationship develops.
Because Carney’s films now have a distinct signature, Flora and suchn will not come across with the same sense of originality once did But this engaging film makes full use of its stylistic DNA.