Led by Oscar winner Anne Hathaway, Song One is a romantic drama set against the backdrop of Brooklyn’s vibrant modern-folk music scene. When struggling musician, Henry (Ben Rosenfield), is hit by a car and ends up in a coma, his sister Franny (Hathaway) is forced to return home from overseas to be by his side and to help her mother (Oscar winner Mary Steenburgen) cope with his predicament.
While Henry fights for life, Franny has her own demons to deal with, namely her guilt over the falling out she and Henry had six months prior to the accident when he decided to drop out of University to pursue music. Belonging to a very academic family, Franny sees his decision as a mistake and feels he’s throwing his life away by leaving Uni for a career as a struggling musician.
Now, desperate to learn how her brother’s life has evolved in her absence, Franny utilises Henry’s diary to learn about his life and retrace his steps through the lively Brooklyn folk scene.
When Franny seeks out Henry’s favourite folk musician and idol, James Forester (Johnny Flynn), and explains Henry’s predicament to him, Forester empathises with her and decides to visit Henry in the hospital. Franny and James soon develop an unlikely connection and start seeing each other.
Featuring an array of performers and original music composed by Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice, Song One almost feels like a documentary at times, a cataloguing of Brooklyn-based folk singers and their various sounds as Franny visits her brother’s haunts, ttrying to get an idea of the person he has become.
The casting of actual musician and actor Johnny Flynn as James also gives it a bit of a documentary feel. His talent is obvious and his quiet and reflective performance is convincing while adding softness to other harsher elements of the film.
While Song One doesn’t introduce anything new by way of material, it is quite charming, mostly thanks to the talented Hathaway. With very little setup, jarring lines and an ambling plot, this film needed strong actors to get it over the line of believability.
The chemistry between Hathaway and Flynn is obvious and their relationship feels organic and real. But it’s all a little contrived and a little too surface level. There could have been so much more here. This film holds its cards too close to its chest, leaving us feeling a bit left out.
Ultimately, this is a film about the importance of following your heart coupled with the importance of having someone to lean on in times of crisis. We can’t all be strong all the time and that’s okay. Song One is an endearing little film, but unfortunately it probably won’t stay with you past the credits. The music might though and the soundtrack is worth a listen as is Flynn’s work.