Flora and Son Review
Flora and Son (2023) Film Review, a movie written and directed by John Carney and starring Eve Hewson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Orén Kinlan, Marcella Plunkett, Paul Reid, Don Wycherley, Amy Huberman, Jack Reynor, Sophie Vavasseur, Harvey Hutchinson, Keith McErlean, Stephen Ryan, Ruairi Heading and Ellie O’Halloran.
John Carney is back with another feel good, music-themed comedy/drama with the delightful, Flora and Son. Eve Hewson, U2’s Bono’s daughter, stars in the movie as a wildly energetic and opinionated mom in Dublin named Flora who is struggling with her troubled son, Max (Orén Kinlan). The love of music these two characters possess brings them together and drives the story line in unpredictable ways. Max’s musician dad, Ian (Jack Reynor) shares the responsibility of raising Max with Flora but Flora pulls most of the weight herself as she works odd jobs to pay the bills.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in a surprising supporting appearance for the actor, plays Jeff, an L.A.-based musician/teacher who does what he needs to in order to pay the bills. Jeff tried to make a “go” out of making music for a living but reality got in the way. When Flora connects with Jeff via the internet, they form a bond that makes the audience question if this couple has potential romantic possibilities ahead of them.
When we meet Flora, she’s dancing and hoping she doesn’t end up sleeping with another insignificant man but she winds up in bed with one anyway. As a way of making up for not getting Max a significant birthday gift, she gets her hands on a second-hand guitar which she brings to a shop and gets fixed up in the hopes that Max could use it. Max doesn’t react so well to the gift initially and Flora and Ian seem to have a hard time helping keep Max out of trouble with the law.
There are many moments in the film that feel authentic even if the major star here, Hewson’s performance seems highly exaggerated at times. It’s impossible to know what Flora will say or do next but, nevertheless, Hewson ultimately emerges with a memorable performance. As her son, Orén Kinlan plays his role with a lot of intensity in the opening scenes but the movie does lighten up later on as Flora and Max begin to form a strong bond through the creation of music.
Jeff’s long-distance relationship with Flora is front and center in the film for much of the film’s running time. Flora flirts with the idea of leaving Max with Ian in order for her to have a real-life relationship with the charming Jeff. That would happen if Flora could leave Max but, apparently, she cannot as Ian is hard to figure out and is only occasionally really good as a dad. Max and Flora have been together more it seems. Flora has struggled to pay the bills watching another woman’s child. She wants nothing more than to change her circumstances but Max is her son and she needs to be there for him because she is his mother.
John Carney has directed some very entertaining films like Once and Begin Again. Flora and Son is equally enjoyable but a little light on substance at times. This new movie is like a slice of life story that, while moving, is also very down-to-earth save for Hewson’s highly theatrical performance. There is profanity here that felt unnecessary but audiences will still respect Hewson’s characterization. A scene where Flora asks a judge to treat her son’s sentence leniently, in particular, stands out as one of the best in the picture. That’s because it’s so genuine thanks to Hewson’s fine work.
It’s great to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt creating a character who feels like he has a lot to say. Jeff’s dreams feel important and when watching Jeff communicate with Flora on screen, the audience will certainly feel it’s only fair for Jeff’s day to come and for the musical dreams of all of the main characters to come into fruition. The movie ends in an upbeat way even if not much has changed for the characters other than the fact that they are finally realizing their musical dreams to keep their minds off the fact that their lives are rather complicated.
Orén Kinlan and Eve Hewson’s rapport together runs the gamut between positive and negative emotions. Their energy is properly devoted to the development of their characters. Though Hewson has more screen time, Kinlan’s work is equally important to the way the movie develops as a character study. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is entirely likable in the movie, making for the least flawed person in the film even though he doesn’t act as he would like to because of his difficult past experiences.
Flora and Son is a rather awkward movie in spots. It’s too messy and the ending doesn’t tie everything up neatly with a bow. Surprisingly, though these elements make the movie more respectable. Carney adds his unique touches to the way the movie concludes in a predictably entertaining fashion.
Flora and Son will still move audiences by the time the credits roll even if it can be a little emotionally manipulative at times. It’s a very funny movie too that will appeal to fans of slice of life comedy/dramas that feature characters with raw emotions. As unfocused as some of it is, that lack of focus ultimately makes the characters more believable as the directions they are taking in life also lack discipline. Being a mother makes Flora feel human and we care for her. Hewson will be a big star if her work in this film can lead to more starring roles as juicy as this one.
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