John Carney knows how to make a connection to his audience through music, films such as Sing Street and Begin Again delivering intimate and personal character journies set to wonderful soundtracks. Carney marks his return with Flora and Son, a film made in the same mould but offering up different human relationships for the music to explore.

Flora (Eve Hewson), a single mother living in Dublin, is having trouble with her estranged son Max (Orén Kinlan), a rebellious teenage petty thief. Encouraged by the Gardaí to find Max a hobby, Flora rescues an old guitar from a skip and, with the help of a Los Angeles-based online guitar teacher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), discovers that one person's rubbish can be another person's salvation.
The most noticeable thing about Flora and Son is how little music there is compared to Carney's other films. It's not what was expected yet it's a welcome change as Carney gets more of a chance to show what he can do without as much music. A mother's fractured relationship with her son looks to be resolved by a guitar taken from a skip however, it's more the mother who finds herself as a result of lessons via video calls to LA. Carney draws you in to truly care about Flora, who just about seems to be at the end of her tether in regards to her son. Taking the time to show her find herself through an introduction to music is so relatable from Carney, following it up with the mother and son duo repairing their relationship through a shared love of music enough to bring a tear to the eye.

The performances play a major part in making Flora and Son such a feel-good musical comedy-drama. Eve Hewson in particular leading the film in a role that demands her to be confidently putting on a brave face all while showing a truly vulnerable side as she tries to keep her son out of trouble and work out her own life too. Orén Kinlan deserves plenty of praise for his turn as Max, funny but also with a hint of shyness when it comes to the ladies. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has almost become a bit of a forgotten man in Hollywood when, in my opinion, he should be much more prominent because he shows again here that he's such a likeable screen presence. His scenes with Hewson really do light up the film.

Flora and Son is another feel-good hit from John Carney, sure to raise a few smiles and even some tears along the way. Could happily enjoy plenty more films from Carney if they remain at such a consistent level.

Flora and Son is in select cinemas September 22 and streaming on Apple TV+ September 29

Verdict: ★★★½


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