Writer / director John Carney is the master of making crowd-pleasing films for music lovers, and his latest won’t disappoint. “Flora and Son” is a terrific addition to his filmography (“Once,” “Begin Again,” “Sing Street“) and it fits in quite nicely with a simple, tidy story that’s easily accessible to all audiences.
Flora (Eve Hewson) is a young, sassy divorced mom to delinquent teen Max (Orén Kinlan), a boy who has been in trouble most of his life. The two live in Dublin in a small flat, and Flora is doing her best to raise her son to have some sort of future success in life. When she finds a used guitar that’s been thrown away like garbage, Flora salvages it and gifts it to Max. At first it’s shunned, but then Flora begins taking online guitar lessons from a man halfway around the globe, which piques the curiosity of her son. She develops a lovely long-distance friendship with her instructor Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and eventually mother and son make beautiful music together.
It’s a charming film with an easygoing flair that’s cheery and sweet. Carney’s insightful writing keeps things grounded, so thankfully the movie doesn’t feel like cloying puffery. It’s definitely a film with a sunny disposition, but the characters are well-developed and have a surprising amount of depth, and the casting is terrific. Hewson and Kinlan have a great chemistry as mother and son, and her rapport with Gordon-Levitt feels just as natural. Jack Reynor adds a breeze of comic relief as Flora’s ex, and the offbeat romantic elements of the script express the type of romantic love (and sincere respect) where characters don’t necessarily end up together.
The original songs (also by Carney) are as catchy and bright as ever, and the final concert scene will have you walking on clouds. This is an easy movie to like, for so many reasons.
Carney has a style, and his latest project shares many similarities with his previous films yet manages to feel refreshing and different. It’s another story of people brought together through the shared love of making music, but “Flora and Son” also celebrates motherhood. It has a cloying, emotionally manipulative ending that will likely resonate with moms, but don’t let that turn you off from the movie because despite a couple of small missteps, there’s a whole lot to like here.
By: Louisa Moore