John Carney: Music shortens distance between 'Flora and Son'

"Flora and Son" -- starring Eve Hewson and Orén Kinlan -- premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
1 of 5 | "Flora and Son" -- starring Eve Hewson and Orén Kinlan -- premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Once and Sing Street writer-director John Carney says he found another way to explore his favorite theme -- the positive power of music -- in the movie, Flora and Son.

"It's happened to me about 10 times in my life where music has pushed me over where I needed to go and been the final little decision-maker in my life," Carney told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.


"I love to make films about characters for whom music plays an integral role and isn't just sort of piped background stuff," he added. "I'm going to continue doing that until I stop getting away with it."

Premiering Friday on Apple TV+, the film stars Eve Hewson (Behind Her Eyes, Bad Sisters) as Flora, a struggling single mother in Dublin who learns to bond with her rebellious teenage son, Max (Orén Kinlan), through music.


"They are across the hall from each other, but they are miles away, which is what being a child is like," Carney said. "Hopefully, through love and the right parenting and maturing, you get to shorten the distance."

Carney gives this particular mother and son the common language.

"They can't talk. [which] is what I decided," the filmmaker said, referring to the strained relationship they have before they discover how to express their needs, dreams and sorrows through song.

"They find a way to communicate that suits them both and makes it easier for them to show themselves to each other and say, 'I'm not just a kid.' Or: 'I'm not just a mum and the breadwinner who brings home the milk.'"

Inception and Snowden alum Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Jeff, the washed-up Los Angeles guitarist who helps Flora find her hidden talent as a songwriter.

"She becomes the right songwriter for the size of the audience that she finds. She writes at the stage that she is at. She doesn't try to make it any better and she doesn't dumb it down," Carney said.

"It is an authentic audio document of the point she is at in her musical journey and in her life."


Flora writes and sings about her kid and living in low-income housing projects in Dublin.

"She's not too concerned about 'Am I Beyonce or Taylor Swift or Norah Jones?'" Carney said. "She's gotten to the stage of her life where she realizes what she's got is her authenticity."

Flora ends up charming her American teacher and reigniting his passion for creating original music.

"He's grateful for having met somebody who probably talked back to him," Carney said.

"He is a mansplainer and a little bit sanctimonious and a bit of a pain in the ass to his friends and maybe to his ex-wife, and Flora] is somebody who rolled her eyes back at him," he added. "He's better off."

Viewers who lived through the coronavirus pandemic and its related lockdowns will, no doubt, relate to how Flora finds an unlikely human connection with Jeff via video-conferencing.

"I thought that might hold me back, but, in fact, it actually facilitated the movie," Carney said of the now-ubiquitous platform.

"This is a tiny, tiny movie that suddenly has a much broader appeal because of the format that the people are communicating through," he added. "They are not in the room [together], we get it more and we are actually on her side more because we are so trapped by Zoom now and so affected by it."


The cast really believed in the project, which was good, Carney said, because he didn't have much money to pay them.

"There were no limos driving them to work," he added. "They needed to want to be there."

Jack Reynor and Marcella Plunkett co-star in Flora and Son.

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