Streaming Review: Flora & Her Son Make War And Then Make Music In John Carney's FLORA AND SON On Apple TV+

A Mother & Son Mothering & Son-ing

By: Sep. 30, 2023
Streaming Review: Flora & Her Son Make War And Then Make Music In John Carney's FLORA AND SON On Apple TV+
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Streaming Review: Flora & Her Son Make War And Then Make Music In John Carney's FLORA AND SON On Apple TV+ Welcome to another installment of Little Bobby’s thoughts on some streaming Entertainment coming to you this time from the fab children at AppleTV+ ... So jump in the stream with us, and let’s see if our rainbow lands on a pot of gold…

This week, my Bobby angels, all that rainbow and pot of gold imagery in our boilerplate opening lines above is more than apt… it is required. Just last night we dialed up a literal leprechaun’s pot of gold on our Apple TV+ with FLORA AND SON. Written and directed by writer/director John Carney (ONCE, SING STREET, BEGIN AGAIN) this VERY Irish movie-with-music tells the tale of… you guessed it, an Irish woman named Flora and her son, Max, - both Dubliners, neither of whom would win any prizes as mother or son, at the outset of the story. In fact, diving into this one with ZERO prior knowledge (we hadn’t even seen the trailer) the experience of the first act caused some anxiety for Little Bobby, as the vibe the film gave off, at first, was one of bleak Irish people doing bleak Irish things in bleak Irish ways… with liquor and potatoes. Starring Eve Hewson, Jack Reynor, Joseph Gordon (be still my hyphen) Levitt, and newcomer Orén Kinlan, this story of a fatigued mother and angsty child averts its trips to kitchen-sink-drama-town by taking turns both touching and hilarious all triggered by the giving (and rejecting) of the gift of a second (or even third) hand guitar. With good intentions, Flora brings her troubled son the battle-scarred instrument, only to have it ungratefully tossed back at her feet, leaving her no choice but to make something of her investment herself. Enter online guitar teacher Jeff (Gordon-Levitt), a failed musician living in LA wondering where his life, his children, and his music have all gone. The other failed musician in Flora’s life is her X and father to Max, Ian (Reynor), a man with the same set of life issues as Jeff plus marijuana. Despite their estrangement, Flora and Ian are trying to co-parent their teen anger ball, even though that often means getting him out of the legal scrapes his penchant for petty larceny pops him into. It is, finally, Flora’s discovery of her son’s guitar-free musical talent that sets the tone, brings color to the bleak landscape, and morphs the film into FLORA AND SON, and, once done, the film becomes a delightful and nimble comedy with music - music that is, in fact, composed by Carney himself (with Gary Clark) and that runs the gamut from soulful ballads to funk-infused rap with one side trip to Hoagy Carmichael.

The writing knits together the disparate lives of the characters to show the transformative power of music and how creative collaboration can lead to common ground, a cessation of hostilities, and the possibility of happy endings. Holding on to that possibility is what drives Flora and sustains the story. Carney’s direction of his actors and his camera skillfully create a slow blossoming of his story, adding color and life to the lifeless landscape he, at first, lays out. Hewson’s chemistry with Reynor crackles brilliantly and her scenes hinting at an online romance with Joseph Gordon-Levitt have a wonderful warm glow to them, and these two relationships are terrific counterpoints to Flora and Max’s. The find of the century, though, is young Kinlan who only had one episode of one TV show to his credit before being given this leading role. Oddly reminiscent of a young Bud Cort with rage issues, his pallid, stoop-shouldered brat annoys when he should annoy and touches when things get touching for him. His work with Hewson transcends mom and troubled teen tropes by making us see why Flora takes Max by the collar and whacks him about the face (trigger warning BTW) AND why she reaches out to him about his music and how they reach for each other with new-found respect. The music of the film flows out of Hewson, JGL & Kinlan’s interactions in beautifully organic ways. No one stops to park & bark a song based on their feelings, but, rather, as a response to working on making good music and, then, making good music together. While the score, most likely, won’t yield hits like Glen Hansard’s FALLING SLOWLY from ONCE, it paints the landscape these characters are trying to create for themselves and draws them together as music in a movie musical should. 

Transformative as all that may sound,  Flora and Max are still a near criminally abusive pair to each other in the film’s first few establishing scenes, but that all falls away just soon enough (not too soon and not too late), and this story demonstrating the ability of music to foster love and family ties when mixed in the cauldron of creative collaboration develops a heart as big as all outdoors. Hewson - heretofore unknown to this rainbow writer - is the heart of the film, and her refusal to go where sentiment might lead her buoys the entire film and keeps it all believable. Reynor’s brick wall of an unsmiling Irish lout is her perfect foil, as well as her perfect Achilles heel-heel, who could be there for his family when he is not mired in his own regrets - something you see in his eyes in every scene. JGL’s warmth and vulnerability anchor Hewson in the hope she is struggling to find and the closeness they develop, though separated by an Ocean, is really lovely. For Bobby’s money, FLORA AND SON is a film about hope blossoming in a barren garden, and while a happy ending is a direction the story seems to be going by the end, Karney has left that ending up to the viewer's own imaginings. One can see it playing out that way, and so we, the audience, are given hope for them and for ourselves, and for that, we give FLORA AND SON a very nice…

4 ½  Out Of 5 Rainbows

This One Is Totally Worth Checking Out AppleTV+: HERE

Hear The Score To FLORA AND SON On Apple Music/iTunes: HERE

Or Stream It On The Spotifies: HERE

Streaming Review: Flora & Her Son Make War And Then Make Music In John Carney's FLORA AND SON On Apple TV+