Carney, who wrote and directed “Flora and Son,” uses music in the film to communicate, convey emotion, and incorporate it into the story as a means for characters to connect. What starts as a rocky, failed flirtation between Flora and her music teacher becomes a lovely sequence of a growing long-distance relationship. It’s easily the most lovable part of the film, and it’s like watching Carney play a beloved hit song: building characters who make music together and fall in love in the process. To illustrate their feelings, Carney has Jeff appear in the room with Flora, melting away the barriers of space and time differences for tender moments, trading cheeky flirtatious lines, and staring into each other’s eyes while strumming guitars. It’s a sweet fantasy that cleverly changes right before the camera, like a recurring daydream.
While the performances are effortlessly charming, the soundtrack is more discordant this time. The majority of the compositions are either acoustic (traditional grounds for Carney) or a cross electro-pop rap dance music that don’t quite work as well as, say, the soundtracks to “Once” or the ’80s tribute “Sing Street.” Gary Clark, who also composed “Sing Street” music, tries to incorporate Flora’s love for dance music, her son’s admiration of local YouTube rappers, and Jeff’s more traditional folk-and-rock guitar background. As the music quality slips, so does a bit of this movie’s appeal.
However, Hewson does an impeccable job as Flora, the movie’s heart and soul. Her character is a wild child with a kid of her own, full of resentment of having her adolescence cut short, but the determination not to let parenting responsibility slow down her ability to party and date after the end of her marriage. Hewson plays Flora’s range with a lot of heart, electric energy, a defiant streak, and a vulnerable side we only see when she opens up to Jeff. Flora’s ex-husband Ian (Jack Reynor) has moved on with another woman and is himself a frustrated musician. Flora initially wants to win him back, but the guitar lessons effectively show her there is love for her beyond her past.