Flora and Son is a light and mostly enjoyable musical movie that offers plenty of laughs but falls short of making any real connection with its original music. Streaming on Apple TV+ after playing a couple different film festivals recently, this was easily one of my most anticipated movies of the year, especially given the musical and story strength of writer/director John Carney’s previous works. Despite not completely engaging with the story, the reality of what happens in the film is incredibly believable and likely true to what learning a new instrument is like in the present.
Flora (Eve Hewson) is an estranged single mother to her disobedient son Max (Oren Kinlan) living in Ireland. Trying to keep him out of trouble and out of juvenile detention, Flora tries everything but parenting with Max, going so far as to get him a guitar he probably doesn’t want. Needing an outlet of her own for expression and connection, Flora takes up online guitar classes from Jeff (Joseph Gordon Levitt) who helps expand her musical mind and helps her realize what’s worth fighting for in her life.
John Carney burst onto the scene years ago with his original musical movie Once (a major theatrical production as well) and this message that music and art make our struggling lives worth living. Unfortunately for Flora and Son I felt like that message got somewhat jumbled in the mix of a fil that was almost more focused on being comical than emotional. While I certainly laughed a great deal, I kept waiting for a more serious turn in the narrative and hoped to see a little more resolution from the characters we’ve been following. The last bit of the film moves insanely fast and feels as if it just skips past some important moments for our leads, making for an uneven ending.
Flora and Son leaves much to be desired for fans of the emotional vulnerability and genius of the lyrics in both Sing Street and Begin Again. I kept waiting for things to turn a bit more serious with the story to really hammer home the ideas they present, but alas they never quite complete the circle. At slightly over 90 minutes the film also struggles with pacing on the back half and isn’t nearly as breezy as you would’ve expected. The original music this time makes sense and feels real for the narrative of new musicians just begging to explore songwriting, though it feels surface level in terms of the audience enjoyment (especially compared to some amazing songs written for the previous films). I really wanted to enjoy this film more and I’m hopeful that Carney’s next outing will veer back to the more serious.
Listen to the full audio review below on our podcast page, or through any of the following platforms!