Flora and Son was made by people who love their jobs. The blurb of it, which stated that the love of music brought the mother and son closer, had us almost running for the hills because we were just not interested in watching a done-to-death concept. However, Flora and Son surprised us, not because it was so different from what it advertised but because of how true it was. It may be a cliche, but it is true when they say that all it takes is one right thing to show why everything else was wrong. This movie is not the first to claim that music acts as a bridge between characters. But seldom have they tried to explore what about it changes people so much. We don’t want a vague philosophical quote about its transformative power; we want to experience it for ourselves, along with the characters of the story. That is why Flora and Son hits all the right notes. Perhaps the last time we felt something close to this was Begin Again, but Flora and Son is undoubtedly the superior movie because it cared for the audience as much as it did for the characters.
First of all, we would like to start by addressing what makes the music in this film so remarkable. Neither is it the best we have heard, nor is it the best that the makers could come up with. But the choice was deliberate in a way that good writing often is. When Jeff presents his song, it’s not just Flora, but the viewer as well, who knows that something is not right. When Flora adds to it, we have an opinion about the new piece, which is valid in its own right because we have been reassured by the narrative as such. When Max comes in with his own piece, we understand why the bridge starts building between Flora and him. While the album for this film is not winning any Grammys, it has made the story what it is. You can only understand this quality in a comparative sense. In most musicals, the music either takes over the film, dominates the characters, or becomes an unintentionally underwhelming part of the plot. But to use it as a subtle device, conveying the unsaid while still emphasizing why it is the hero throughout, is a feat we haven’t seen before. For this aspect alone, Flora and Son is unmissable.
Before we get to how the film deals with the heavier topics, we would like to point out how, much like the music, even the city of Dublin plays its own role in the narrative. Flora and her son’s journey of music is scattered all over Dublin, in the parks, the views from the rooftops, the cafes and walks, and the final shots of the film that show the life of the place. It isn’t just good cinematography; it has relevance to the choices of the protagonist, and when you realize that, eventually, you will know why this is a great film. A clue to its superiority might be the poster of the film, where Max’s silhouette makes up Flora’s headphones. If the blurb had you grunting in annoyance, the poster would give you hope that there are still filmmakers who take every aspect of their art seriously. That means that it goes without saying how good the actors are at what they are doing. Eve Hewson is undoubtedly the star, and it is good to see her here after her Becka in Bad Sisters. Joseph Gordon Lewitt, as Jeff, did what he does best, and Ian, as Max’s father, who is not too fond of responsibility, is easily funny and annoying at the same time. Then there was Max himself, played by Oren Kinlan, and we agree with him being in the top 50 of Ireland’s brightest talents. Flora and Son gives you nothing to be disappointed with, and we are in love.
Flora and Son, despite being titled as such, takes some time to prove the merit of its name. The film is about two of Flora’s relationships—one with her son and the other with Jeff—and the latter dominates most of the story. This actually confused us for a while, even though we enjoyed it very much. But just like when it comes to understanding the movie’s love for Dublin, it takes time to understand why Flora’s relationship with her son is at the center of the story. It is not evident right away, but that is what everything is centered around.
Finally, it is important to note how Flora and Son represents Flora’s journey as a mother. She goes from someone who does the bare minimum to someone who would go above and beyond for her child, and that is the most defining moment of the movie, which puts everything in perspective for us. This is a movie like no other, and it takes watching it to know why that is so.
It might serve to remember that this is also the reason why this movie might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It doesn’t have the heavy sentimentality one would expect from the genre. And neither are the protagonists easy to like; in fact, we would say that each one of them is extremely inappropriate. There is no defending that, but if you can look past it, the story is every bit as captivating as we promised. We know that Eve Hewson sang her bits in the songs of the film, but apparently, Joseph Gordon Lewitt was tremendously excited about honing his musical abilities for Flora and Son. All these are masterful details that just go to show exactly why this is such a perfect movie. We feel like we have to repeat this again, but this film only looks cliche. At the heart of it, the director and the writer have truly done something different, whether intentionally or not, and that makes Flora and Son one of the better movies of the year. It is perfect for a day after work or a weekend watch, or it can also be the perfect date night movie, but it remains unmissable. We want this to be talked about more.