Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Review: Eve Hewson (Bono’s Daughter) Finds What She’s Looking for in John Carney’s Extra Charming “Flora and Son”


A John Carney film, for me. is an event. “Once” was huge, my favorite is “Begin Again,” and “Sing Street” just gets better and better. Carney’s magic comes from finding the best off beat songwriters and using their talents to create his fairy tales about ordinary people who want to become — and sometimes it works out — rock stars.

“Flora and Son” is as charming and wonderful as the previous movies. a Dublin saga about a single mother — Eve Hewson — with a delinquent 14 year old son and an ex husband with some background in the music biz. Hewson’s Flora is an independent, wise Irish girl who curses, smokes, and drinks, has a heart of gold, and healthy passion for men. She grabs an acoustic guitar out of someone’s trash. has it restrung, and hands it to her son. She hopes he’ll take it up. When he rejects it, Flora — already a singer — figures she’ll take lessons.

The teacher comes via YouTube from Los Angeles — Jeff. a ne’er do well songwriter played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a Topanga Canyon minstrel on the edge of the record biz but has never struck gold. The two immediately begin flirting, and playing a lot of original songs written by Carney and mostly Gary Clark (who once steered the great real life band Danny Wilson).

Flora and Jeff communicate solely via FaceTime from L.A. to Dublin, only sharing non screen scenes when Carney lets Flora’s fantasy bring Jeff into her presence, Otherwise, it’s all wifi, and I had to check that Dublin apparently has excellent public wifi in their parks because Flora tends to sit outside when she’s chatting and playing with Jeff. I thought it was implausible, but it turns out to be possible.

Gordon-Levitt pulls Jeff off despite the limitations of being mostly on video. Jeff is charming and self-effacing and a very good musician. Oren Kinlan is a talented kid, the rare ingratiating kind who has a nice rapport with his parents and keeps it real as a troubled teen with music on his mind.

But the star of this show is Hewson, who comes equipped with music in her genes. If handled right, “Flora and Her Son” is her “Working Girl.” She’s in almost every scene, and carries the film from beginning to end with aplomb. Carney steers clear of most cliches, and lets the characters run the film rather than plot. Will Flora and Jeff have a happy ending in the digital age? It could go either way and still be alright. Meantime, the choice of songs — including Tom Waits’ “I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You” — moves the film along happily just as it has in all the Carney films.

“Flora and Son” will debut at the Toronto Film Festival. I still remember how “Begin Again” — then called “Can a Song Save Your Life?” — turned the Ryerson Theater into a frenzy. I’m so sad the cast of “Flora” won’t be present to feel the love this time.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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