top of page




Release Date: 09/29/23 [Apple TV+]
Genre: Drama. Music. 

Studio: Apple TV+

"It follows Flora, a single mom who is at war with her son, Max. Trying to find a hobby for Max, she rescues a guitar from a dumpster and finds that one person's trash can be a family's salvation." 


There’s no living filmmaker who can quite capture the correlation between music and love like John Carney. From Once to Sing Street - and even Amazon’s Modern Love to a certain degree - he’s shown audiences how melodic life can be amidst the chaos. His latest film, Flora and Son is unsurprisingly no different.


As the title implies, the film revolves around the relationship between a woman named Flora and her son. It’s a troubled relationship at first. When we first meet Flora, it’s apparent that she’s very immature - the opening scene depicts her hitting up a club on a school night. As we come to find out, she had her son Max at a very young age. So young that their dynamic is more like brother and sister than mother and son. He doesn’t respect her. She has a hard time relating to him. 


Realizing that the only thing Max cares about is music, Flora pays to salvage a broken guitar she finds one day in the trash. She aims to give it to him as a belated birthday gift. There’s only one problem: Max isn’t into that kind of music. As a teen, he’s more into rap and techno. When Flora tries to give him the guitar, he swiftly rejects it. While she initially throws the guitar into a corner out of anger, she eventually feels it call out to her. On a whim, she decides to try and learn how to play it herself. But what starts out as an attempt to distract herself sets into motion a series of events that help her grow into the person Max truly needs in his life.


Like everything else in Carney’s filmography, the film is terrific. Where Once captured the love between two broke street musicians, Begin Again captured the love between two people and their craft, and Sing Street captured the love a teenager had for the girl of his dreams, this film takes a step back and captures arguably the most important kind of love there is: the love between a mother and son. What makes this story particularly great is how it portrays a fractured relationship between the two. Traditionally, most sons fall into the “mama’s boy” stereotype. Here, Max is the total opposite. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love her. He just doesn’t know how to love her. The same thing can be said for Flora. She wants to be there for her son, but she doesn’t know how. The film shows how possible it is for two people to still care for one another and not be on the same note. And it isn’t until that guitar comes into the picture that they quite literally begin to harmonize. 


Eve Hewson is a revelation as Flora. To say that this is the role she was born to play would be an understatement because after seeing her in this you’ll come to believe that she can play any role. All at once she’s fearless and fragile. She has such a magnetic presence that even when she’s reflecting in private, you don’t want to look away. There’s one moment where she listens to a song recommended to her by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character and she just weeps at the words. Without saying anything herself she tells us exactly how she feels. Simply put, her transformation from firecracker to family woman is award worthy, and one that should at the very least turn her into a household name.


Orén Kinlan, who plays Max, is also great. It’s not just his chemistry with Hewson, or Max’s transformation alongside Flora, but rather his character’s reckless approach to life. He is a human embodiment of the emoji that shrugs its shoulders, and it’s fantastic. While Flora’s carelessness doesn’t look so good on her, he wears his like a badge of honor. And although it makes it harder for Flora to embrace him, it makes for some great comic relief. For example, eventually, when the two find common ground with their musical tastes and start collaborating, she lets his corny lyrics slide because she knows that it makes him happy. His unapologetic attitude towards life ios so extreme that when he finally does decide it’s okay to care sometimes, you can’t help but feel like a proud mother yourself.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt also delivers an immaculate performance in the film as Flora’s overseas guitar instructor/love interest. Having spent the better part of his career on screen in action and drama-heavy roles, this character is a refreshing change of pace that shows both his creative and vulnerable side. While we don’t ever learn as much about his character or his past as we should, the songs he sings alone and with Flora fill the film with an unwavering optimism for both of their futures.


Speaking of the music, once again John Carney delivers. With Once being more folk-driven, Begin Again being more pop-driven, and Sing Street being more rock-driven, he and his frequent collaborator Gary Clark lean more into Max’s interests to create one of the most unique soundtracks of the year. That’s not to say the entire film is filled with rap and techno songs. Although some of the most memorable ones are a pleasant combination of the two (“Dublin07”), there are also plenty of soft ballads. It’s not just the new genres or melodies that distinguish the film from Carney’s other works though. It’s also the lyrics. Yes, as previously mentioned, there are corny ones supplied by Max. For example, there’s a reference to MMA fighter Connor McGregor that will undoubtedly make audiences laugh out loud. But there’s also some very mature ones. For instance, in the film’s showstopper, titled “High Life” you hear Flora attempting to make sense of her entire tenure as a mother. 


As great as the film is, there is only one real problem: it’s too short. It’s not that the film needed more time to flush out the story or its characters but rather it ends right when it feels like it’s about to begin. Right as Flora finally comes into her own as a mother and right as Max begins to appreciate his mom’s sacrifices, the credits roll. But maybe that’s the point. The rock band Journey famously said “You know the movie never ends. It goes on and on and on and on.” Perhaps that’s exactly what Carney is intentionally showing us. Similar to the way the battered guitar at the beginning of the film was reborn and sparked this story, one ending point can always be a starting point. It just depends on perspective. While the audience does still get quite an engaging send-off song during the credits, it really would have been nice to get a definitive epilogue. 


Even that is not enough to change the fact that this is yet another certified banger from John Carney. At a time where original movies and music are scarce, he has once again found a creative and crowd-pleasing way to blend the two. With as much heart, humor, and harmony as ever he proves that whether you’re an underappreciated mom, a misunderstood teen, or something in between, music is the only thing that can truly connect us all.


bottom of page