Flora And Son

Flora And Son
Flora And Son
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Although we may have been all right with Vin Diesel darting through the streets of Rome after a bouncing bomb, it’s hard to even pretend to buy into Eve Hewson moving breezily through barre chords in her second online guitar lesson (it must be genetic). But aside from her prodigious playing, Flora is floundering when we first meet her in John Carney’s latest musically-infused dramedy set in Dublin. We are talking about Flora and son drama.

Flora, who is a young single mother with a son that spends half his time stealing petty things and trying drop some sick beats, raises Max using an exasperated mix of furious C-bombs and resentful avoidance. We know little about her musician ex-husband Jack Reynor except for that he plays bass. Thus, she hates what she does as a nanny (stealing money while working) and gets drunk at dirty bars around Dublin.

A lucky break comes when Flora picks up an unwanted guitar out of garbage on Max’s birthday and passes it off as a belated gift. When he tries to morph his hip hop self into “Ed fucking Sheeran” via this ruse, Max refuses so Flora decides to play herself for now. On YouTube she finds Jeff, the seemingly delightful folk-guitar instructor who invites her into a musical voyage.

Carney has always had an affinity for soul mates bound by music so no surprise there when Flora discovers that she is learning something beyond just chord shapes and rock ballads. It’s not quite the Meatloaf-cute it would have us think though. Perhaps finally this chaotic approach by Flora to learning eventually wins Jeff over but their sessions—when instead Jeff appears in the room more intimately than flirtatious FaceTime—can rather be said as trauma therapy involving frets than seduction via pentatonic scales.

However familiar this story sounds by now where music leads someone towards self-understanding, Hewson hits her solos with the accuracy of Hendrix. The caustic edges of her performance as Flora fill the lessons with a bitter atmosphere that keeps them from becoming overly saccharine, and at the same time, makes the character honest. In 2015 she showed us what she can do comedy-wise in Bad Sisters, this year it’s something else – we see her tearfully praising Joni Mitchell and discussing blow job techniques.

Gordon-Levitt does a good job as Jeff the failed musician who one can sympathize with and whose emotions are tenderly expressed. However, it is Kinlan playing opposite Hewson that really shines here. This is a true portrayal of their relationship – authentic, unadorned and hilarious yet touching moments between two characters who swear a lot before finding common ground on which to communicate as friends in film’s emotional core revealed by its title.

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