- Anne Hathaway as Franny Ellis
- Johnny Flynn as James Forrester
- Mary Steenburgen as Karen
- Ben Rosenfield as Henry Ellis
A quiet but stirring little film about the need to reconnect and the healing power of music, Song One delivers emotional viewing with beautiful nuance and natural acting.
Franny Ellis, an anthropology student, has been estranged from her brother Henry for six months following a huge argument surrounding his decision to quit college and try to make his way as a musician. When Henry is rendered comatose in a car accident, Franny returns from working on a study in Morocco to Brooklyn in the hopes of patching things up.Feeling a sense of guilt over the way they parted and all the things she said to him, she begins to recount parts of his life through reading his journal. Retracing his steps and his deep musical passion, she meets James Forrester, a folk musician within the Brooklyn music scene that her brother was a big fan of. Through this meeting and later relationship, Franny begins to face reality and the past mistakes she has made. The growing relationship also benefits James, who has lost inspiration but finds it when Franny walks into his life. Tentatively beginning a burgeoning relationship, the two find that their internal and emotional wounds can be healed through music and understanding even when life throws its worst at them.
Kate Barker-Froyland writes and directs this moving film with personal and observational naturalism. She gives Song One a quietly touching quality that adds to the film’s fresh and sincere look at reactions to tragedy and the attempts to reverse what has already been done. None of the emotions really feel forced or put on; they come from deep within the heart and the results show on screen. What is very refreshing is the relationship that begins to grow between Franny and James. There is a definite undertone of romance in there, but Song One isn’t striving to make a swooning overture of grand love. Instead the core of their partnership is understanding one another and seeing that while they have their flaws and regrets, hope is always there no matter how great the suffering they endure. You can argue that not much happens in Song One, because of its measured pace and subtlety. In actual fact, quite a lot happens in it, it’s just told in a quiet and non histrionic way that gives it something special. The power of music and sound is beautifully observed throughout this movie. As an audience, we see Franny taping sounds from the outside world to play for her brother at his bed side as a way of communication. The choppy editing style in the beginning effectively underscores Franny’s emotional demons and her attempts to overcome them. And as it is a film about music, the suitably folk tinged score from the Brooklyn music scene is very moving to listen to.
Anne Hathaway stunningly portrays Franny with emotional subtlety and shaded nuance. Instead of an excessive display of over emotion, we get to see the gradual repair of her regretful soul through a smile her or a tear there from the talented Hathaway, using her remarkably expressive face to excellent use. Much like Hathaway’s delivery, Johnny Flynn gives his role of James a quiet reticence and undeniable charm. Flynn also showcases his moving musical skills during many important scenes and listening to him singing is indeed something very impressive. The two of them really have great chemistry that makes you believe their relationship. Mary Steenburgen brings an excellent dynamic to the role of Franny’s mother, while Ben Rosenfield, often seen in flashback, luminously illustrates passion and love.
I would wholeheartedly advise you to watch Song One as you won’t regret seeing this quiet little indie gem.