The story begins with Henry (Ben Rosenfield), a street singer in New York City, getting disastrously hit by a car. Franny, (Oscar winner Anne Hathaway), Henry’s sister, is in Morocco working on her anthropology project. She receives the news and immediately returns home. Her brother is now in a coma with their mother (Mary Steenburgen) coping as best she can. As a family, I sense they were once very close, but Henry left college to become a singer. Franny disapproved and wedged the family apart. Being the responsible one, while her mother and brother are more informal and unconventional artists, Franny struggles with the life her brother follows, wants to understand his choice, wake him up from his coma and apologize.
Franny discovers Henry’s journal that depicts his life as a street singer. She hopes to find meaning to his world and draw him out of his coma. She learns about his favorite haunts and notes his idol, James Forester (Johnny Flynn), a street singing celebrity.
Franny follows her brother’s foot sets according to his journal entries. Franny meets James and they become friends and romantically involved. Together they help each other solve their problems through companionship. Franny trying to draw Henry out of his coma with familiarity of sounds and smells in hopes of rekindling their relationship. James hasn’t written a new song in over five years, and his tour is coming to an end. He needs new material for his recording session scheduled in Germany.
Written and directed by Kate Barker-Froyland (her feature debut), Song One strolls along with endearing moments and poignant music, but I kept waiting for the inevitable in Franny and James relationship, still it never happened. Sure. The acting is brilliant, but the overall meaning of the story never comes full circle with Franny and James, mother and daughter or brother and sister. Barker-Froyland leaves us void at the end, wondering what was the point of the story. Sure. I sense both Franny and James problems were solved, yet they had started a relationship without an end. Song One may seem like a romantic story, but it is more about differences in culture or lifestyle is not an excuse to divide relationships.
Seeing both ends of being a street singer, James success and Henry’s struggle to find his voice, the movie fondled the life of New York City street performers. With great music and talent, an eerie presence under my skin, I feel compelled, like Franny, to understand the culture so new to me.