Thursday, September 28, 2023

Music builds bridges in 'Flora and Son'


Director John Carney (Once, Sing Street) seems to make movies about the way he wishes the world were, a place where ordinary people communicate through song and where troubled souls  can be soothed with poetic lyrics. Carney’s Flora and Son doesn’t match Once but it has its charms and boasts a strong performance from Eve Hewson.  Hewson plays Flora, the tough Irish mother of a 14-year-old son (Oren Kinlan) with a penchant for trouble. Separated from her musician husband (Jack Reynor), Flora spends too much time drinking, clubbing, and having sex with strangers. Both Flora and her son Max need a touch of redemption. Carney's fans won’t find it surprising that growth comes through music. Flora begins an online guitar course with Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an American teacher.  Max turns to rap. The relationship between Flora and Jeff flirts with long-distance romance, but Carney isn't a romcom guy. He  uses music as a means for personal growth and connection. Although he travels in Dublin’s working-class milieu, he’s hardly a social realist. Carney qualifies as a musical fabulist operating in real-world settings. He flavors his fantasies with the stale smell of overpopulated pubs. Don’t be surprised if, at times, Hewson and Gordon-Levitt appear together, even though they're separated by more than 5,000 miles. Carney allows them to break their online chains as a way of suggesting that distance needn't preclude harmony. Flora and Son never quite achieves the jewel-like glow that Carney may have been after and the speed of Flora's musical development challenges credibility. That doesn't mean the movie isn't pleasant and rewarding. You may want to think of it as an easy-listening experience in a movie world dominated by harsh notes. Take that as a compliment.


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