Photo courtesy of John Guleserian Sundance Institute
In her first major role since winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Les Misérables, Anne Hathaway gets back in touch with her indie side for Song One, a modest but affecting drama that finds her delivering a gentle performance that contains none of the melodramatic fireworks of Fantine. Writer-director Kate Barker-Froyland’s feature debut about a woman reconnecting with her brother through his songwriting idol has a delicate, melancholy tone that’s fragile but strong enough to sustain this minor-key tale.
Hathaway plays Franny, a PhD student in anthropology studying Bedouin tribes when she gets a call from her mother (Mary Steenburgen) back home in New York with news: Franny’s younger brother, Henry (Ben Rosenfield), is in a coma after getting hit by a car. Franny returns to New York, feeling guilty that they hadn’t talked for months after she got mad at him for dropping out of college to pursue a music career.
Since Henry can’t speak, Franny decides to reenter his life in another way: through the journal he was writing. Alongside lyric ideas and general music musings, the journal reveals Henry’s admiration for a singer-songwriter named James Forester (Johnny Flynn), who had a hit indie album about five years ago but has struggled creatively ever since. (Franny even finds a photo of Henry backstage with his hero.) Seeing that James is playing in New York, she introduces herself to him and explains her brother’s condition and his adoration for him. Sympathetic, James (who doesn’t remember meeting Henry) shows up at the hospital to see the young man, and he and Franny strike up a friendship.
From the first moment that Franny and James meet, it’s easy to presume that the two of them will strike up a romantic relationship. But one …