6-12 February 2015 #744

Song One

A clumsy and noticeably dark romantic comedy
Sophia Pande

It hasn’t been that long since I wrote a review of Begin Again (2014) a right charmer of a film starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo – that deals with real musicians making real music that sticks in your mind for months to come.

So, it was with a great deal of anticipation that I awaited Song One, another film about musicians, starring some real ones that premiered initially at the Sundance Film Festival in January last year. Perhaps the reason for my disproportionate amount of excitement had something to do with the fact that Johnny Flynn, who can only be described as a throwback to the English troubadours (really there is no other word for his kind of music), plays the lead role of James Forrester in said film.

Mesmerised, circa a decade ago, by the show he played with Laura Marling (another one of Britain’s great, young, singer/songwriters) in a small New York venue, I would have been perhaps a little disappointed had I been told that he would foray into cinema – although perhaps, in hindsight, it might have been inevitable on account of his romantic (in the Shakespearean sense) good looks.

Considering that Song One would have been a hideous film had Flynn been a bad actor, I am relieved to report that playing across Anne Hathaway as his love interest, Franny, Flynn does hold his own. Natural as he is the man is not a great thespian: his talent lies firmly in the world of music.

Still, Kate Barker Froyland, the director, has been astute in her casting of Flynn as a famous musician who has had a great deal of success with his debut but has stalled while writing his follow-up album (incidentally, this is not a reflection of Flynn’s personal musical career). When Franny searches James out to understand why her comatose musician brother Henry (Ben Rosenfield) dropped out of college to follow in James’s footsteps, she stumbles onto one of his solo performances where he shifts effortlessly from the guitar to the violin in a one man show that highlights the lead character’s inherent charm and suitably shifts the film’s trajectory away from the clichéd kind of melodrama that most of us abhor.

I will stop there, for this is not quite a romantic comedy, much less so than Begin Again albeit perhaps a little clumsier and noticeably darker, and I do not want to give the game away. With the incredible music and the palpable attraction between the characters, Song One is a film that will keep you more than suitably entertained, visually and musically; especially considering that all the songs were composed by Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice – two indie darlings that write the catchiest of tunes.

Watch trailer

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