With his songwriting Oscar, popular film, and Broadway production of Once behind him, director Jim Carney again explores the transforming magic of music. With Flora and Son, Carney sticks to his Irish roots by shooting his hometown Dublin in non-touristy neighborhoods where real people scrape by and find some salvation in local music. Now and then local music hits the heights of U2. This works as a sort of “six-degrees” connection since Eve Hewson—the woman playing Flora—grew up in the music world with her dad Bono. This might explain some of her own talent singing and strumming guitar, and she seems totally believable as the too-young mother of a 14-year-old needing to find a distraction from easy pursuits like stealing. Noticing a guitar in a trash bin, Flora refurbishes it for the boy Max, who like any good 14-year-old, immediately rejects it. Turns out he does better with expensive electronics and rap. Meanwhile, Flora puts the guitar to use by taking online classes from a never-quite-made-it guy in L.A., engagingly played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The word “likeable” comes to mind for pretty much e
very one and thing in the movie, including director Carney’s easy-going style. His technique includes letting Gordon-Levitt’s character move off the computer screen into action with Hewson as the two discuss and play at music and life. Director and stars contribute with their own compositions, a pleasant mix of tunes that might see further attention come awards season. But when it comes to truly moving emotions with songs, Carney relies on he likes of Tom Waits, Hoagy Carmichael, and Joni Mitchells’ “Both Sides Now,” once again proving he knows how to play an emotional heartstring.