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TIFF 2023 Review: Flora and Son – “Warms your soul and brings you comfort.”

Courtesy of TIFF

Sometimes all you want is a nice movie.  The sort that warms your soul and brings you comfort.  If you’re on the hunt for such a film, Flora and Son may just fit the bill.  And, while the movie just enjoyed its Canadian premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, wider audiences can enjoy this heartwarming gem on Apple+ starting September 29th.

Director John Carney revels in this kind of movie, incorporating music into his films in a more organic way.  His films are less true musicals, where one might burst into song at any given moment, and more movies that just involve music.  Whether it’s the folksy tunes the buskers in Once compose, or Keira Knightley and her guitar in Begin Again (which premiered at TIFF under the title Can a Song Save Your Life), if you’re sitting down for one of Carney’s films, you can expect to be humming long after the last frame.  Flora and Son is no exception.

Check out all of our TIFF coverage

Flora (Eve Hewson) was only seventeen when she gave birth to Max (Orén Kinlan).  She makes ends meet by babysitting, sometimes sneaking an extra few Euros from a purse.  But, sticky fingers run in the family, and Max has had his last warning from the police.  One more offence and he’s facing a stint in juvenile detention.

Flora and Max have a tumultuous relationship as best, and the relationship both of them have with his dad (Jack Raynor) is really no better.  They argue and seem unable to understand one another.  After Max rejects Flora’s gift of a guitar, something meant to keep him out of trouble, she decides she can try and use it to change her own narrative.  She signs up for $20 online guitar sessions from Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a calm, suave, smooth-voiced, failed musician with a past of his own.  As Flora, Jeff, and Max (who tries his hand composing dance tunes) start delving deeper into music, they might just discover its ability to emotionally heal them all.

Eve Hewson, who I first came to know in the Apple+ series Bad Sisters has a breakthrough turn here as Flora.  She’s fantastic, a lovable and a true star of the big screen.  Sure, we are all a little sick of zoom meetings after COVID, but the chemistry she shares, even over the screen, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt is charming and the heart of this film.  The way that Carney brings them together, even through the burgeoning of their potential long term romance is clever and tender.

What starts a little rocky really finds its stride once the two start making music together, and once Flora and Max start bonding over this shared new interest, the film really hits home.  It’s a little reminiscent of Hearts Beat Loud the 2018 charmer starring Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons, where a father and daughter bond over their music.  That Flora and Son creates the same warmth and has a similar feel is not a bad thing.  Both films are more than worth the time investment.

While Flora and Son may lack some of the depth that Once had, it is nevertheless a crowdpleaser.  It’s the type of film where you realize your cheeks hurt because you’ve been smiling for the last hour; where you look on Spotify for the soundtrack while the credits roll (or after the credits, because you don’t want to miss more of Gordon-Levitt singing).  John Carney knows what he likes, and he clearly knows what he is good at, and so long as he continues making movies like this, I’ll continue being a complete sucker for them, quite happily indeed.

Flora and Son had its international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival September 12, 2023.  For more information, please go to  As mentioned above, the film will be available on Apple+ September 29th.

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