“Flora and Son”
Rotten Tomatoes (2.5/5), Metacritic (5/10), Letterboxd (2.5/5), Imdb.com (5/10), TMDB.com (2.5/5)
The hype swirling around this romantic/creative saga about how the power of love and art can solve virtually any problem has indeed been palpable, but the finished product unfortunately fails to live up to its ambitious billing. Writer-director John Carney’s latest feature tells the story of Flora (Eve Hewson), a Dublin working class single mom with questionable values who’s struggling to raise her (allegedly) rebellious teenage son, Max (Orén Kinlan). But, in doing so, the picture tends to wander amidst an array of diverse story threads, all of which start out dubious but gradually mellow into a mass of schmaltzy harmony, a somewhat implausible scenario given the patently unlikable and irresponsible nature of its central characters. The means for accomplishing this transformation is Flora’s budding love of music, a newfound passion brought about in large part thanks to her online relationship with Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a deadpan, middle-aged Los Angeles-based guitar instructor, a relationship with obvious (but not especially credible) romantic underpinnings. However, in telling this tale, the film gets bogged down by elements like Max’s frequent but unconvincing rebelliousness, Flora’s turbulent relationship with her ex-husband, Ian (Jack Reynor), and a series of long-winded, tedious, supposedly sensitive conversations between Flora and Jeff. To its credit, the film has its share of biting one-liners and a breakout performance by Hewson, but much of this production never really seems to know where it’s going and ends up relying on trite, formulaic plot tropes to wind things up. Regrettably, “Flora and Son” represents yet another example of a film that seriously could have benefitted from further revision and development before being committed to a final cut, an all-too-familiar problem with many of this year’s cinematic releases.