When you’ve watched the movie and look back at it, you’ll remember that “Flora and Son” was charming and sweet, even though, at times, it seemed anything but agreeable. You’ll see what I mean.
The way Flora, played by Eve Hewson who was in “Enough Said” and “Bad Sisters” goes about getting her son Max (Orén Kinlan) to do anything is nearly impossible. You feel sorry for her, but the build-up of that connection is outstanding. Their relationship started as one of inconvenience; she was too young to have him, and he didn’t want to be born.
He’s a bit of a hoodlum and the cops are ready to throw his “arse” in jail if he doesn’t stop. The guard who caught him thieving again asks Max if he knows what they do to cute lads like him in there. He suggests to Flora to get him into the Juvenile Liaison program to keep his light fingers occupied.
Soon after, she sees a guitar being put into a garbage truck. She grabs it and gives it to Max (a day late) for his birthday. He couldn’t be less interested. He’s very disrespectful to her and calls her the “C” word for being late with his gift in the first place. Insulted and hurt, she screams at him to go back to his Da.
His father is Ian, played by Jack Reynor from “Free Fire” and Misommar.” Flora met Ian when she was young and impressionable. He was in a band that opened for Snow Patrol once, and she fell in love with the musician. It didn’t last, but the child she had did. They have an amicable association dealing with their son, which suits the boy, but he wants to be left alone. He wants the freedom of an adult. The writing here is all well done, with his frustrations with life and his for more flexibility… and their trying to give him some space while showing him why he’s wrong and needs guidance at the same time.
Deciding to use the gift she got for Max, Flora goes online and takes guitar lessons. She views videos of people trying to tell watchers how to play, but it isn’t until she connects with a twenty-dollar-a-session Jeff, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt from “3rd Rock from the Sun” and “Mr. Corman,” that she feels she gets the information she needs to learn. She learns Zoom style, speaking directly to Jeff, who explains why songs sound extremely distinct when cords are used differently. Jeff explains that a song is never “just a song.”
She sings one for her and she’s impressed. Jeff gets her to strum a cord and tells Flora she now owns that. They get into more conversation and playing. She loves her lessons and is getting good enough that she helps Jeff with a few of his songs.
You can instantly see a little jealousy when she tells Ian about what she’s doing, so he tells her that Jeff is in the graveyard for failed musicians. This, she ignores.
Flora tells Jeff she wants to write the ultimate ” Female Empowerment” song as she improves. He plays her a song he wrote. As they get closer and tell one another about their lives, writer/director John Carney from “Begin Again” and “Once” makes it look as if they’re in the same room with one another, not looking through a computer screen. Each time this happens, Jeff touches her heart. She smiles warmly. He’s who needs to be in her life. It’s an intelligent and excellent move to show how much she trusts him.
Her improvement in music is exposed, but she discovers something she didn’t know was happening. She goes into Max’s room and hears that he’s creating music, as well, only in a much different style. She asks him all about it and she is helping him with a few lyrics. Before long, she helps him create a video.
The ending isn’t exactly what you’d expect, but we see what a loving mother will give up for her child and what she’d do to help make his dreams come true. Eve Hewson is brilliant and you’ll immediately fall in love with her. It’s nice to see that the whole family are now musicians; they have something that will always connect them.
*Stay and listen during the credits to hear Jeff’s song to Flora.
Flora and Son
Writer/Director: John Carney
Run Time: 1h 34m
Producers: Peter Cron, Rebecca O’Flanagan, Robert Walpole, Anthony Bregman, John Carney
Distributor: Apple Original Films