DVD Review: Song One (M, USA, 2014)

song one

Sometimes films transform you, sometimes they inspire you, and sometimes they do neither. Song One is one of those films that don’t really do either but remains a very pleasant story to watch.

Directed by Kate Barker-Froyland, the film stars Anne Hathaway as Franny Ellis, an anthropology student studying in Morocco when she is called home to New York after her brother Henry (Ben Rosenfield) becomes comatose. The opening scene of a busker engrossed in his music as he walks the streets draws us into folk music realm before a car hits him so quickly you could almost miss it.

Tension within the family quickly becomes clear as a deep chasm between the two siblings is revealed. The unlikely plot line of Franny acting like a mother as a result of Henry dropping out of college is somewhat unbelievable and seems like an over-reaction, particularly when the period of no communication was only six months. Though as a result, Song One is a story of redemption with Franny attempting to enter her brother’s world that she removed herself from. She delves into her brother’s writing, music, pictures, places and bars. Though somewhat predictable, the story does tug at your heartstrings.

Part of her attempts to understand her brother include attending a concert of Henry’s favourite musician, James Forester, played by real life British musician Johnny Flynn. From the get go, meetings between Franny and James are the epitome of awkward with mumbling and stilted conversation. There is an evident connection there, though it’s not easy to pinpoint.

While amusing, whimsical and occasionally adorable, the film was chiefly led by the music and soundtrack as opposed to character or plot. Music is omnipresent, as before even the first visual, we hear music. I could take a bath in the soundtrack of this film; it’s luxurious, heart warming and a lot of fun. Close-up shots focusing on each live musician extend this connection to music for the audience.

Throughout the film shots focused on people and their faces and there was rarely a shot where one of the key characters’ faces was far from view. Shots are cut sharply and sequences are rarely smooth, particularly in the first part of the film as we’re getting to know the characters. Locations were identified from the mis-en-scene and backdrops of each shot. There was a clear sense of being in New York and more specifically, Brooklyn, with views of the Hudson River, the Empire State Building and the more quietly populated streets that hide underground bars, venues and clubs.

Taking place over a matter of days with only four key characters, Franny, Henry’s comatose presence, their mother Karen and James, we become well acquainted with the people in this story. As a result, the open ending seemed to leave us wanting more, not quite satisfied but not quite unhappy either.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 86 minutes

Song One is available on DVD/Blu-Ray or digital download iTunes from 27th May 2015 through Entertainment One.

https://vimeo.com/123586158

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