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‘Flora and Son’ delivers comedic narrative with substance

Film offers insightful look into the power of music, mother-son relationships

<p><span style="background-color: transparent;">The line between funny surface-level movies and funny movies with substance is not easy to pass, but John Carney’s “Flora and Son” makes the feat look effortless.</span></p><p><span style="background-color: transparent;">Courtesy of Apple TV+ Press.</span></p>

The line between funny surface-level movies and funny movies with substance is not easy to pass, but John Carney’s “Flora and Son” makes the feat look effortless.

Courtesy of Apple TV+ Press.

The line between funny yet surface-level movies and funny movies with substance is not easy to cross, but John Carney’s “Flora and Son” makes the feat look effortless. Following the story of single mom Flora (Eve Hewson) and her son Max (Orén Kinlan), the film is a bright, witty and relatively refreshing watch, pulling at viewers’ heartstrings up until its very end.    

Flora and Max do not start the film on the best of terms. Although the two have similar argumentative personalities, this often leads to more fighting than mother-son bonding. The duo spends most of the film’s opening minutes cursing each other out, and Flora at one point confesses to a friend that she often wonders what her life would look like without Max. Thus does the film’s trajectory begin: with its main characters in a somewhat hopeless, perpetually angry state. Inevitably, there is nowhere for them to go but up.

This upward trajectory begins when Flora acquires a beat-up, discarded guitar. She has always loved music — her ex-husband Ian (Jack Reynor) once played at the same concert as Snow Patrol — and she sees the same love in Max. Thus, Flora decides to sign herself up for virtual guitar lessons with Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an American singer-songwriter from LA. And although Jeff lives about 6,000 miles away, the two begin to fall in love.

Jeff and Flora’s relationship is sincere — and incredibly intimate considering they have never met face-to-face— but it does get a bit old at times. Viewers can only watch Jeff play folk love songs on his acoustic guitar so many times. Then again, viewers should also keep in mind that singing is what they signed up for: Though labeled as a comedy-drama, “Flora and Son” is also considered a musical.

As a result, music is the medium through which characters find themselves connecting and reconnecting in the film. As Flora continues to fall for Jeff, she simultaneously repairs her relationship with her son. The two grow closer due to the passion they both have for songwriting: They share their work with Ian, create a music video and end up entering a songwriting competition as a family band. Again and again, the film asserts that music is meant to be made in collaboration with loved ones. 

Although Flora’s life is nowhere near perfect — Max has a habit of stealing things, which he unsurprisingly inherited from her — the film nonetheless paints it as an incredibly fulfilling one. Shot in perhaps the brightest light a movie taking place in Dublin has ever used, “Flora and Son” ultimately places a layer of sunshine over any major familial problems. This does not mean that the movie dismisses the difficulty of being a single parent or a neglected child, it instead demonstrates that happiness can be achieved in spite of hardship.

Flora and Max are about as likable as two people in a film can get. Both are brutally honest, which makes for a hostile, but absolutely hilarious, home environment. The entire movie, in fact, is the perfect kind of funny: subtle in its pop culture references to musicians like Ed Sheeran and Harry Styles while simultaneously causing viewers to laugh out loud in downright ridiculous shots of Ian’s old music videos. Max’s rapping is decent but still warrants a laugh or two, and Flora herself is a hysterical hot mess of a babysitter — the kind that sends partial nudes while the child she’s supposed to be looking after hangs out on the toilet.

What’s perhaps most touching about Flora and Max’s relationship is that it goes well beyond the relative distance that usually separates mothers and sons — the two become genuine best friends, joined by their mutual love of music. Although their relationship does seem to take a 180-degree turn compared to what it was initially, this change isn’t necessarily unrealistic. Rather, it is indicative of music’s ability to connect people to one another, as well as its power to bring substance to the world of happy films.  

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Rya Vallabhaneni

Rya is an arts & culture section editor from Albany, NY. She is a junior studying English and Literary Arts, and her favorite TV show is Breaking Bad.



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