Greetings again from the darkness. This pleasant little film is such a treat, though that’s not surprising since writer-director John Carney was also responsible for SING STREET (2016) and ONCE (2007), two underrated gems. All three films do what filmmaker Carney does best – they use music as connective tissue between characters who otherwise struggle to click.
Eve Hewson (“The Knick”, and Bono’s daughter) finally lands a lead role, and she truly shines as Flora. Flora is a frustrated woman in Dublin who doesn’t know how to deal with her borderline juvenile delinquent teenage son, Max (newcomer Oren Kinlan). She also desperately wants to find a spark of happiness for herself … even hoping to win back her ex, struggling musician Ian (Jack Reynor, MIDSOMMAR, SING STREET), who has moved on and found Flora’s replacement. Flora was much too young when she became a parent, and though she’s far from perfect as a mom, she knows in her heart that she wants a better life for her son and herself.
Max seemingly has no ambition, and he quickly rejects the tattered acoustic guitar his mom offers as a late birthday present. It turns out Max prefers creating computer-generated hip hop music via software and hardware … mostly in hopes of getting a girl’s attention (a tale as old as time). So, while Max putters behind a closed door, Flora begins guitar lessons via Zoom with Jeff (charming Joseph Gordon-Levitt) pursuing the goal of learning guitar and singing a song she will eventually write at the local pub’s talent show. Of course, Flora is drawn to Jeff’s sensitivity and he to her sincerity and beauty. Director Carney infuses some fantasy into this virtual romance with dreamlike sequences in which Jeff appears alongside Flora, the Zoom camera no longer an obstacle.
Jeff takes a cruel shot at Flora’s favorite song by James Blunt, and instead introduces her to Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” … yet another example of how music can bring folks together. Director Carney also gets bonus points for including Tom Waits’ “I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love With You”, one of the greats. The connections through creating art don’t end with Flora and Jeff, and soon Max is chatting with his dream girl, and Flora and Max and Ian come together for a blended live number, showing music heals wounds and builds bridges. Sure, this is a sentimental, feel-good movie, but they can’t all be filled with action and superheroes and misery, right? This is one to enjoy. Plus, it’s time for the world to appreciate the talents of Eve Hewson and John Carney.
Opens September 29, 2023