TIFF 2023 Review: Flora and Son

Synopsis: Single mom Flora 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.
Director: John Carney
Stars: Eve Hewson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Oren Kinlan, Jack Reynor

The last time I remember seeing an Eve Hewson project was the series Behind Her Eyes, and while I remember enjoying it at the time, it wasn’t overly memorable — one of those shows you binge and off to the next. In fairness, most shows fall into that category. I mean, they can’t be all Breaking Bad or Squid Game.

Look no further than Flora and Son for a memorable Eve Hewson performance. The film is a strong entry on her resume and somewhat of a love letter to Ireland.

Hewson plays Flora, a single mother doing her best to raise her son Max (Oren Kinlan). Flora is, let’s say, rough around the edges. She isn’t the soft-spoken type. Most of her sentences include a four-letter word here and there. Her son isn’t any different. The teenager finds himself getting into trouble, often with the law. His lack of respect for his mom is evident in how he talks to her. Coming from a family with somewhat strict Trinidadian parents, had I said any of the things Max says to his mother, you would be noting my time of death.

The police have made it clear that Max is running out of chances, and incarceration will be an option if his behaviour keeps up.

While a bit of a mess herself, Flora wants to help her son and put him on the right track. One day, walking by a dumpster, she spots a guitar. She retrieves it, has it fixed and presents it to Max, who scoffs at it. He’s no ‘Ed Sheeran!’

Flora then decides she’s going to try and learn the instrument herself. She turns to YouTube but struggles to learn from the online instructors until she comes across Jeff’s page. Jeff (Gordon-Levitt) has a calm demeanour, which is not what Flora is used to.

Their first lesson goes off the rails quickly — Flora is like the reality show Too Hot to Handle — but she is a little tamer by the next lesson.

Max has a few passions in life, and it turns out that music is one of them. Flora sees this as an opportunity to bond with her son.

This film is very sweet. It fits comfortably in the dramedy category; there are funny moments but also serious ones. In addition to being a love letter for single mothers, it also shows the development of Hewson as an actor.

With his scruffy beard and omnipresent guitar in hand, Gordon-Levitt brings the ‘swoon’ factor, but more importantly, his character delivers a certain level of calm to the film.

Oren Kinlan is strong in this film. He captures teen angst very well and effectively shows Max’s tough and tender side.

John Carney’s Flora and Son is an entertaining film that answers the question, “What’s a good Eve Hewson film to watch?”

Grade: B

Watch the movie trailer: