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‘Flora and Son’ shows how music can connect us

My son and I have a tradition where if we both really love a television show, we’ll try to watch it together. Since we don’t live in the same house, that usually means that we will start it at the same time and then text our reactions to each other through the episode.

It’s one of my favorite ways to keep in touch with him as an adult. Relationships between parents and their children get more complicated the older kids get, and finding ways to connect can be difficult, and I’m always interested to see how that is shown in film.

So I was excited for John Carney’s latest film, “Flora and Son,” currently streaming on Apple TV+.

Flora (Eve Hewson) is a single mother living with her troubled son Max (Oren Kinlan). They have a contentious relationship, and in an attempt to bridge the gap between them, Flora offers him a discarded guitar that she has fixed up.

When he rejects the gift, she decides that she will be the one to learn guitar. She finds Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) online and starts lessons with him over Zoom. Through their time together, she learns not just about chords and strumming patterns, but about opening herself up to the power of music.

I loved this movie. I enjoyed “Sing Street,” Carney’s last musical movie set in Ireland, and while this has similarities, it is distinct enough to not feel like a retread of the same film.

I will say that this movie is quite sentimental, which may be off-putting for some, but which I found utterly charming. Yes, it wraps up neatly, but not in a way that feels forced or manufactured. The final scene made me smile and cry, but without feeling completely manipulated.

The performances definitely helped the story feel grounded. Gordon-Levitt was probably the least believable of the characters, but his singing was lovely, and he delivered everything with enough heart to make me believe it anyway.

But Hewson was the star of the movie. I loved the way that she captured the feelings of someone who became a mom earlier than planned, and who is now parenting a teen when she never really got to experience her teenage years.

I also thought this movie did an interesting job of presenting virtual relationships. We live in a time where people have lots of online relationships and where Zoom is part of many lives, and that was handled in a unique way through this movie. The use of screens in film is often not great, and I liked the way that Carney handled it here.

I am always a sucker for a love story, and “Flora and Son” hits on that in some unexpected, but beautiful ways. Perhaps I need to call my son and see if we can schedule a time to watch this one together.

ALISE CHAFFINS is a Morgantown writer who loves movies and sharing her opinions. She reviews a movie from a streaming service every Saturday and one newly in theaters every Sunday. Find more at MacGuffin or Meaning on Substack.