From writer-director John Carney, of “Begin Again” and “Sing Street” fame, comes his next project “Flora and Son.” Starring Eve Hewson as the titular Flora and Orén Kinlan, in his first role, as her son Max we follow the pair as they develop their bond through their shared passion of music.

When we first meet Flora she’s foul mouthed, always drinking white wine and generally does not get along with her son. She’s frankly an unlikable person and not a great mother. Her son Max is 14 years old and frequently in trouble with the law to the point where if he commits another offense he’ll face serious consequences. In order to keep her son out of trouble Flora rescues an old guitar from a skip hoping that Max will pick it up as a hobby. But he rejects her offer and instead Flora herself begins taking guitar lessons from Jeff, an LA based musician-turned-teacher played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. 

It’s not an easy feat to set up a character in such an unfavorable light and then make the audience genuinely root for them by the end. But that’s exactly what I found myself doing. Flora’s journey is not an easy one, as she grapples with her anger. But seeing her resilience and change for the better gives us glimpses under her tough surface. I appreciate how despite her circumstances Carney didn’t write Flora as a character to be pitied. Neither does he justify or brush under the rug the unlikable things Flora does. Instead the way the story unfolds allows the audience to come to their own conclusion as we see Flora develop into an improved version of herself. The best part of the film are the performances by the cast. Particularly, Eve Hewson shines as she gives a career defining performance as Flora. Her chemistry with her son feels genuine as both her and Orén Kinlan encapsulate the struggles of growing up. Hewson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt also have sizzling chemistry which is even more impressive considering that they communicate via zoom for the entirety of the film. Yet we are hooked on their will-they-won’t-they connection, in part also aided by Carney’s creative blocking of their scenes.

Although it could be seen as a romantic comedy of sorts the film expands on the typical tropes of rom-coms instead highlighting the love between parent and child. Like other John Carney films music plays an important part in the story. However I found the music in “Flora and Son” to be less memorable compared to the soundtracks of his other films. Nevertheless, you will still find yourself deeply moved and will be laughing at some parts then holding back tears the next moment. 

I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of the film followed by a Q&A with Eve Hewson. It was especially impressive to hear how she prepared for the role as she took both singing and guitar lessons to play Flora. Furthermore, from the stories Hewson recounted, the atmosphere on set was positive and fun which you can definitely feel when watching the film. 

“Flora and Son” had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2023 followed by a limited release in the United States last autumn. Currently it is available to stream on Apple TV +. It is also scheduled for a wide release in Ireland on February 23rd 2024.


Written by Dafne Mistrangelo

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