Movie News & Reviews

‘Song One’: A very low-key romance: 2 stars

Franny (Anne Hathaway) falls for an indie crooner (Johnny Flynn), the idol of her ailing brother.
Franny (Anne Hathaway) falls for an indie crooner (Johnny Flynn), the idol of her ailing brother. Film Arcade

Rated PG-13 | Time: 1:26

The gooey premise of “Song One” would probably make “Notebook” author Nicholas Sparks proud: A young woman develops feelings for a folk musician who is the idol of her comatose brother.

But this quirky film does the unexpected: It pours on the restraint, emphasizing the grit and making the romance as low-key as possible. It’s an anti-romance romance.

In some ways, this approach serves the film well, thanks to Anne Hathaway, who is able to express so much without saying a word. She owns this musically friendly movie, even as others do most of the singing. (Don’t expect any “Les Miserables”-like numbers from her this time around.)

Hathaway is so good that we often forget how underwritten her character is here. The same cannot be said for Johnny Flynn, as the musician who plays her love interest. Flynn gets his musical moments right, but he doesn’t have the nonverbal chops to match Hathaway. We have little idea what they see in each other.

To be fair, director Kate Barker-Froyland has more than romance on her mind, and she crafts a nuanced ending to the story that feels right. We just wish we could have gotten to know these folks a little better along the way.

(At Cinetopia.)

| David Lewis

San Francisco Chronicle

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