MOVIES: Flora and Son – Review

John Carney is super fun and great at creating an effortless crowd-pleaser in his sleep – this is kind of a fusion of Once and Sing Street and Begin Again all into one film; and it fuses them wonderfully with the heart and soul of a film that aims above its station of an AppleTV+ advertisement.

The film explores the online dating world of the 21st century, rehabilitation for criminals who shoplift; by having Oren Kinlan play Max, a troubled son who picks up music as a way of keeping himself out of trouble – but then finds he has to steal to get the best tech. His mother is Flora, the fantastic Eve Hewson, who is so so good at building the chemistry with the equally charming Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who shines at the online guitar teacher Jeff. It’s easy for the film to build on these characters’ relationship thanks to the magic of cinema so despite these characters living in different countries, we have them sharing an intimate bond that carries the film: Gordon-Levitt’s voice is easy to fall in love with, and the songs that his character creates inject a voice and heart into the character that’s unseen elsewhere. Opposite him is deadbeat dad Jack Reynor playing Ian, a washed up, bitter musician who appeared in one music video with Snow Patrol.

The quest to find redemption and a purpose later in live drives Flora – who often contemplates abandoning her life and starting anew, but like with Wild Rose she finds herself drawn back to her home and Max – parental responsibilities vs. the lack of being able to chase her dreams that many of her friends did when she was staying at home scars her: the outburst later in the film is powerful and raw; a lost 20s. The film doesn’t judge her for this choice and examines why she made it – and that plays a key part in driving Flora’s narrative. It’s another thing for her and Jeff to bond over; he has a shared story too – and whilst Gordon-Levitt can’t be asked to appear than anything other than through a laptop screen – it does show an example of how AppleTV+ cleverly put their products into their films – there’s a scene at the end where he joins a live performance on stage playing music through a video call.

Ultimately it’s impossible to hate Flora and Son – the film touches on how songwriting can explore vast differences and different cultures, Ireland and LA being two radically different worlds – and the fusion of Carney’s past work comes crashing into one another. It’s a quality that lends itself more to innocence and the heyday to musicals of old Hollywood – again, bringing up Wild Rose as a comparison: it’s a film where you want everyone to succeed and everyone clearly has an easy out. The key difference to where the film threatens to surprise you is kind of spoiled by the name: it’s Flora and Son, and that’s highlighted by the choices Flora has to make over and over again. It’s a credit to her and the film that she does.

Flora and Son is available to stream on AppleTV+ now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *