Dublin-born musician-turned-writer/director John Carney’s latest film Flora and Son opens limited today, and goes wide on Apple TV+ next Friday everywhere but Ireland, where it will get a full theatrical release February 23. The film stars Eve Hewson, Jack Reynor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Oren Kinlan. Hewson plays a former wild child who is bored and barely communicates with her son, or her estranged underachieving musician husband. Fate smiles upon her when she finds a guitar in a dumpster, and when her son rejects the gift, she goes online for lessons to learn how to play the beat up six-string. Hewson is the daughter of U2 frontman Bono, and not surprisingly she sings like an angel and grounds another in Carney’s onscreen oeuvre of demonstrating the healing power of music. Flora and Son was the breakout his of last January’s Sundance, and Apple won it after a ferocious bidding battle.
No filmmaker has shown a propensity for taking the specifics of playing music and making it the basis for relate-able storytelling the way that Carney has. He began as bassist for the Irish rock band The Frames back in the ‘90s, playing alongside Glen Hansard, who debuted onscreen in The Commitments and starred with Czech musician Marketa Irglova in Carney’s breakout film, Once. Made for a minuscule $160,000, Once won the World Cinema Audience Award at 2007 Sundance, grossed $7 million and won the Oscar for Best Original Song for Falling Slowly.
Carney’s subsequent films included Sing Street and Begin Again (he’ll talk here about his eternal regret letting Harvey Weinstein talk him off his original superb title Can a Song Save Your Life?). The film starred Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Maroon5’s Adam Levine, James Corden and Hailee Steinfeld. Watch here how a Dublin kid and former busker used his passion for music to tell compelling stories onscreen.