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Eve Hewson and Orén Kinlan in "Flora and Son," premiering September 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.
Eve Hewson and Orén Kinlan in "Flora and Son," premiering September 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.
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Review: 'Flora and Son' is a can't-miss musical comedy

Original, inventive and contagiously charming, "Flora and Son" by writer-director John Carney features plenty of singing and lighthearted Irish ribbing to attract audiences, but it will be the undoubted takeaway for anyone who does heed this recommendation that Eve Hewson is, unequivocally, a star on the rise.

There aren't enough words or space in this review to fully sum up the ways in which the actress keeps our eyes on her every move. The Hewson effect is infectious — you'll just have to catch it yourself. For those with an Apple TV+ subscription, "Flora and Son" is a can't-miss musical comedy.

Luckily, it isn't just Hewson that shines. "Flora and Son" is a heartwarming, vocal-cord-awakening, feet-bopping anti-romantic comedy that will entertain and delight viewers around the world. Carney is no stranger to this very specific sub-genre. His breakout film "Once" won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and his films since have incorporated music as a central component to the plot. However, he is not a one-trick pony. Though "Flora and Son" may suffer from minor pacing issues, it makes up for it in its unrelenting confidence and the undeniable chemistry of its characters. A kick-butt soundtrack doesn't hurt, including original songs written by Carney, Hewson and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt with a splattering of co-writers.

The film's premise, if the name doesn't give it away, centers on Flora (Hewson), a single mother struggling to raise her preteen son Max (Oren Kinlan). Flora had Max with her ex (Jack Reynor) as a teenager, and that responsibility at such a young age makes Flora feel like she was held back from the carefree fun and promiscuity of one's 20s. Now in her 30s, Flora is tired of being a young mom, feels guilty about resenting her innocent child and is eager to pursue something other than her day job as a nanny or her nights drinking and dancing at the clubs.

Flora finds a discarded guitar, which she fixes up as a birthday gift for Max. Like most growing adolescents, Max is much more interested in rap music and his digital synthesizer than acoustic melodies and listening to his mother. Inexplicably drawn to the instrument and ready to have something for herself, Flora signs up for lessons with an online instructor. Flora logs on with a glass of wine from Dublin; Jeff (Gordon-Levitt) attempts to keep her on track from his studio in Los Angeles. Polar opposites, Flora and Jeff embark on the most unexpected of journeys when Flora's hidden talent for songwriting and performing takes them to the artistic collaboration no one saw coming.

As with most pandemic and post-pandemic films which aim to portray the real-life uses of technology and social interactions, Carney had a difficult task: unite these two characters who realistically would meet over video chat and create a meet-cute that feels more personal than two faces separated by screens. He accomplishes this handily, and Flora and Jeff's bourgeoning love story is quiet, easy but totally adorable. Like the film at large, we root for Flora both despite and because of her personality flaws.

And make no mistake, Flora is not a perfect character. She drinks too much, swears, steals, can't seem to prioritize her son or her own well-being, yet still, we are attracted to her story and her success on every level. For Hewson, this role will hopefully thrust her into another tier of audience recognition because the role of Flora requires so much of her: acoustic singing, dancing (for laughs, but also girl has moves), conveying the humor of the working class without turning a snob nose to alcoholism or entry-level posts, and making an otherwise subpar mother look like Angelina Jolie.

As Flora continues on her path toward self-discovery, her journey opens channels to connect with her child. For mothers around the world, the film will ring universally relatable. We love our children, and we do all we can for them, but it sometimes comes at the cost of our own identity. Flora, the foul-mouthed, brazen, electric lead, is the headliner, and it's impossible not to demand an encore.

"Flora and Son" is streaming on Apple TV+ now.