I watched a screener of the new romantic drama SONG ONE, which was released in theaters and video-on-demand last Friday – and stars Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn. Set against the backdrop of the indie music scene, the film is a character-driven exploration of relationships, struggle and creativity. The film marks the début of writer/director Kate Barker-Froyland, who worked with Hathaway on David Frankel‘s “The Devil Wears Prada.”
Hathaway plays Franny, who is estranged from her family for several years and returns home after receiving devastating news about an accident her younger brother has been involved. In her journey to re-connect with her brother, and assuage some of the guilt she carries for not supporting his music aspirations, she connects with one of his favorite singer/songwriters (Flynn) and a romantic relationship ensues.
According to Froyland,
“In the film, Henry (Ben Rosenfield) is trying to become a musician and has recorded a song he plans to send to his sister, Franny (Anne Hathaway). It’s the first song he’s really proud of and the first song of Henry’s that Franny actually listens to. James (Johnny Flynn), who’s been struggling in his own way as an artist, eventually writes Silver Song, which will end up being the first song of his new album. The idea of a “song one” encapsulates the nature of creating— the process of starting from scratch and starting over. The result in this case is music, which draws the characters together in a meaningful way.”
As a creative, I certainly connected to the indie-artist identity so appropriately displayed in the film. Froyland pulled no punches with the family support/lack of support dynamic that often accompanies the lives of working and struggling artists. Hathaway’s portrayal of Franny trying to reconcile her lack of support for her brother, prior to his accident, was spot-on. But with an 88 minute running time, the movie isn’t that long and I found the relationship/romantic connection with Hathaway and Flynn’s characters to be sort of rushed – and was a bit unfulfilled with it by the film’s end.
One thing I absolutely loved about the movie was the soundtrack. The film features original music composed by songwriters Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice, and live performances from Sharon Van Etten, The Felice Brothers, Dan Deacon, Paul Whitty, Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens, Cass Dillon, Elizabeth Ziman, and Lola Kirke. According to Rice,
“One of the reasons this project became so attractive to Jenny is it allowed us an opportunity not to write about ourselves. We were writing for this other character, plumbing his depths. We often find as songwriters that we say in songs the things we can’t say in conversations and daily life; for instance, when James plays “Big Black Cadillac,” in Henry’s hospital room, he’s essentially conveying the pain of his childhood to Franny without ever having to talk about it.”
“It’s an extremely personal song,” says Lewis, “And he puts himself on the line by playing that song in that room with Franny. That’s why music is such a conduit between people—a melody can be lovely and healing even if the story is very sad.”
And as an aside: here’s a link to a cool article I found on the site You, Me & Charlie – where the songwriting duo shared a playlist of songs that inspired the musical development for Flynn’s character.
Watch the below trailer for SONG ONE, and check out the official website here for tickets and purchase info. If you’re in Philly or the surrounding area, the film is playing at the PFS Theater at the Roxy – and you can get ticket and showtime info by clicking here.
You know the drill MMT fam, stop back and leave a comment or two when you see the film!
Until next thought, Thomasena
SONG ONE synopsis
Oscar® winner Anne Hathaway (Interstellar, Les Miserables) stars as Franny in SONG ONE, a romantic drama set against the backdrop of Brooklyn’s vibrant indie music scene. After Franny’s musician brother Henry (Ben Rosenfield, Boardwalk Empire) is injured and hospitalized in a coma following a car accident, Franny returns home after a long estrangement and begins to use his notebook as a guide to how his life has evolved in her absence. Franny seeks out the musicians and artists Henry loved, in the course of her journey meeting James Forester (Johnny Flynn), his musical idol, whose success and fame belie a shy and private man. As a strong romantic connection develops between Franny and James, the question becomes if love can bloom even under the most adverse circumstances. The film, produced by Jonathan Demme, also stars Oscar® winner Mary Steenburgen (The Help) and features original music composed by Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice, and live performances from Sharon Van Etten, The Felice Brothers, Dan Deacon, Paul Whitty, Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens, Cass Dillon, Elizabeth Ziman and Lola Kirke.
DIRECTED BY: Kate Barker-Froyland
SCREENPLAY BY: Kate Barker-Froyland
STARRING: Anne Hathaway, Johnny Flynn, Mary Steenburgen and Ben Rosenfield