Friday, December 02, 2016

Song One

Written and directed by Kate Barker-Froyland, Song One is the story of an anthropologist who returns home after her brother becomes comatose from an accident as she uses the music of his favorite singer to try and revive him. The film is a drama where a woman tries to patch things up with her brother while meeting the musician he admired. Starring Anne Hathaway, Johnny Flynn, Ben Rosenfield, and Mary Steenburgen. Song One is a lively and compelling film from Kate Barker-Froyland.

The film is a simple story of an anthropologist who returns from Morocco after learning her estranged brother has been hit accidentally by a car as he’s become a comatose. Trying to find ways to revive her brother, the woman learns about his favorite singer as she attends his show where she would meet him as he would later take part in trying to revive the woman’s brother. The film’s screenplay by Kate Barker-Froyland doesn’t have a lot of surprises in terms of plotting but it does create characters that are interesting as well as not being afraid of being flawed. The film’s protagonist Franny (Anne Hathaway) is someone who is often used to have things in control until she learns that her brother Henry (Ben Rosenfield) is in a coma as she blames herself for not contacting him due to a fight. Going through his journals and opening up videos he sent that she never saw, she would embark on a journey to not only understand more about her brother but also the musician he idolizes in James Forester (Johnny Flynn).

Barker-Froyland’s direction is definitely very simple as it play into the world of folk music bars and such that Franny would encounter. Shot largely on location in Brooklyn, New York with some of it shot on Morocco, the film plays into a woman trying to learn about the world that her brother seems to be drawn into as well as want to be part of. While there are some wide shots, Barker-Froyland would favor more intimate compositions with the usage of the medium shots and close-ups to play into the drama. Barker-Froyland would create a looseness to the musical performances while creating moments that are just low-key and to the point. Even as it wouldn’t be overly-dramatic where Barker-Froyland would just maintain something that is real and natural which include some tense moments between Franny and her mother Karen (Mary Steenburgen). Still, it is about a woman trying to reconnect with her brother through music as well as find out much about herself and the man her brother idolizes. Overall, Barker-Froyland creates an engaging though formulaic film about a woman trying to revive her brother through music.

Cinematographer John Guleserian does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the way many of the interior/exterior shots of New York City looks at night to some of the naturalistic look of the scenes set in Morocco. Editor Madeleine Gavin does nice work with the editing as it is quite straightforward while including some stylish jump-cuts to play with the conventions of the drama. Production designer Jade Healy, with set decorator Brandon Tonner-Connolly and art director Anne Goelz, does terrific work with the set pieces from the hospital room where Henry slept at as well as the home that Karen lived in. Costume designer Emma Potter does wonderful work with the costumes as it is mostly casual that play into the look of hipster New York City.

Sound mixers Hicham Amedras and Jeff Pullman do superb work with the sound to play into the natural elements of the sound in the many locations including some of the music clubs. The film’s music by Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice, with additional music by Nate Walcott, is brilliant for its mixture of folk and indie music while music supervisors Eric Craig and Brian McNelis create a soundtrack that does play into the indie-folk scene with some music from Morocco as well as contributions from Dan Deacon, America, Sharon Van Etten, and Nina Simone.

The casting by Tiffany Little Canfield and Bernard Telsey is marvelous as it feature some notable small appearances from Lola Kirke as a performer and Sarah Steele as a fan who asks James to sign her iPod. Ben Rosenfield is superb as Henry as Franny’s younger brother who wants to be a musician only to become comatose following an accident where he spends much of the film lying in bed. Johnny Flynn is terrific as James Forester as a popular indie-folk musician that Franny would discover and meet as he learns about Henry and helps Franny while dealing with his own issues in his career. Mary Steenburgen is amazing as Karen as Franny and Henry’s mother who is coping with the latter’s accident and coma while wondering if she had been a good mother as well as deal with Franny on some unresolved issues. Finally, there’s Anne Hathaway in a remarkable performance as Franny where she plays this woman who feels guilty for what happened to her brother as she is desperate to wake him up where it’s Hathaway displaying some humility and restraint as well as bits of charm as it’s one of her finer performances.

Song One is a stellar film from Kate Barker-Froyland that features an excellent performance from Anne Hathaway. Along with a superb cast and a nice film soundtrack, it is a film that maybe formulaic and doesn’t do anything new but it at least has characters that are compelling enough to be invested in. In the end, Song One is a very good film from Kate Barker-Froyland.

© thevoid99 2016

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