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Song One premiered at the Sundance film festival in 2014. It is a romantic-drama filled with beautiful music and spirit. The film is the theatrical feature debut of its writer-director Kate Barker-Froyland. Although the film received poor box office results and a mixed critical response, Song One should stand the test of time as an underappreciated film about the remarkable power of music in the lives of people.
Franny (Anne Hathaway) is a student pursuing a PhD in anthropology who returns home on learning that her brother Henry (Ben Rosenfield) has been hit by a car and is now in a coma. Franny and Henry had a bit of a falling out and hadn't spoken to one another in many months because of an argument over Henry's decision to drop out of college and pursue music. Franny strongly felt that he was making a mistake.
Upon seeing her brother in the hospital, Franny realizes that she became disconnected from him and his dreams and is now interested in reconnecting with her brother (while hoping for his recovery). She begins reading his journal and seeks out the things that Henry loved. She decides to see concerts by some of his favorite musicians who perform around the city.
Henry's favorite artist was James Forester (Johnny Flynn). Franny makes a special effort to bring Forester a demo of one of the songs that her brother was working on following one of his concert performances. She also tells him about her brother's situation. In only a short matter of time Franny also introduces James to her mother Karen (Mary Steenburgen), and a friendship forms which brings James even closer to the family: as though he was already a part of it himself.
Over the course of the journey, a romance begins to develop between Franny and James. They start to spend a great deal of time together and both talk about their experiences in life and the hardships that they face. James comes to perform his music for Franny's brother in the hospital. Both of them hope to help inspire Henry to wake up through his love of music. The question which remains: can they save Henry with the power of a song?
There are many elements of the production which manage to impress. The folk-song music crafted by Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice aids the filmmaking well. Both are remarkably gifted. The cinematography by John Guleserian (About Time, Like Crazy) gives the film a beautiful blue-hue that is fitting given the storyline. The editing by Madeleine Gavin (Mean Creek, What Maisie Knew) helps to give the film a strong and steady pace. Costume designs created by Emma Potter (Breathe In, The English Teacher) are naturalistic and believable for each character.
Writer-director Kate Barker-Froyland has crafted a wonderful film. Her story is well suited to the style of the film and it helps to enhance the overall power of the effort. The blend of the journey these characters take and the strong musicality of it is wonderful. This is a beautiful debut film from a promising filmmaker. One can't help but hope to see more from Barker-Froyland in the future. Her strong cinematic approach brings a strong performance out of Anne Hathaway that ultimately helps to anchor the film. Hathaway gives an emotionally resonate performance that fully taps into the potential of the script.
In exploring the story, Barker-Froyland finds a delicate balance between character development, romantic elements, and music. Song One may not be a groundbreaking drama but it is a strong effort that sensibly and sensitively works to great effect. The emotion of these characters is so well realized through Barker-Froyland's script, direction, and capable cast that audiences are going to find Song One to be an effective and emotionally resonant film (far stronger than a multitude of other efforts made in the same genre). Song One is a musical experience that deserves to be discovered.
Song One arrives on Blu-ray with an exceptional 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded image in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The image is sharp, crisp, and clean. The image has strong depth and detail throughout. The cinematography by John Guleserian looks great. If there's any issue with the release its a minor issue in regards to black levels and this relates specifically to the type of camera used to make the film. This is a great looking transfer. It impresses from start to finish and there are no problematic encoding issues.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation sounds splendid. The music comes alive in the various scenes featuring song performances. These moments are exquisite. Dialogue is also easily understood throughout. This is a crisp audio presentation with a great lossless audio element. The sound design is quite simple, though, and many scenes are quiet without an abundance of songs or sound effects. The presentation simply excels as needed: it works efficiently and the end result should satisfy listeners.
The release includes a behind-the-scenes making of the soundtrack (16 min.), which features the songwriting musicians Jenny Lewis & Johnathan Rice working as producers on their songs and the actors Ben Rosenfield & Johnny Flynn recording versions of the songs during the sessions.
Deleted Scenes (4 min.) and the original theatrical trailer for Song One are also provided.
Song One is an entertaining and heartfelt film which should have performed better in the box-office. It's a nicely done dramatic effort by a first-time filmmaker and it features a strong lead performance from Anne Hathaway. The music is perfectly suited to the film and adds a great deal to the experience.
Fans of romantic-dramas and/or Hathaway are strongly encouraged to give the film a chance. It's beautiful charms might just surprise and delight you. The Blu-ray release has great PQ/AQ. This release is worth a pick-up for fans.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.