Sundance 2023 Review - Flora and Son
John Carney's fourth film, Flora and Son was my most anticipated film to debut at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival since I absolutely adore two of the director's previous films, Begin Again and Sing Street. Carney's last film, Sing Street was truly one of my favorite films I've ever had the pleasure of seeing at Sundance, and it's been a long seven years since without any follow-up. His talents have truly been missed and his return was long-awaited (by me). Add Joseph Gordon-Levitt to the cast and my expectations were sky-high.
Flora and Son follows Flora (Eve Hewson), a feisty Irish woman whose been boxed in by her life choices--namely keeping her son Max whom she got pregnant with at 17. The two don't have the smoothest relationship, particularly when she forgets his fourteenth birthday. She tries to make it up to him when she gifts him a second-hand guitar, but he's more interested in hanging around his dad (Jack Reynor) than touching that piece of junk. Instead of letting the guitar go to waste, Flora decides to take up guitar lessons and makes an unexpected connection with her online guitar teacher Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
Flora and Son fits nicely into the John Carney catalogue. It features his unique brand of catchy music, silly humor, and a touching love story you can't help but root for. Eve Hewson perfectly nails the difficult role of Flora. She's funny and fiery--her performance totally carries the film. Her easy chemistry with a more reserved Joesph Gordon-Levitt is a real highlight of the film, and Carney frustratingly leaves you wanting more. In fact, my only complaint with the film is feeling like the ending snuck up on me to the point where it felt like the entire last act of the film was completely missing. I might make peace with the ending on subsequent viewings, but for now, my initial impression was that it was more of an ellipse and less of an exclamation point than the way his previous films have ended.
But, even if I'm undecided about the film's conclusion, I still very much love the rest of it. All of the essential ingredients are there for Flora and Son to become an instant favorite, and it very much is. It's charming and laugh-out-loud funny in a way few movies are these days. Like all of Carney's films, it feels like a gem. While it's certainly more grounded and less idealistic than my personal favorite Sing Street, it's great fun all the same. I can't wait to watch it again.