Time fates destiny in “Song One” as Anne Hathaway stars as Franny, an anthropologist doing research in Morocco, returns to New York when her brother HENRY (Ben Rosenfield), a young musician, suffers an accident that leaves him comatose. In a chance instant, a young musician’s life is abruptly interrupted when Henry, absorbed in the music playing on his headphones, steps off a curb into the path of a taxi.
As she reconnects with her family, she begins to understand and appreciate the depth of Henry‘s commitment to music, seeking out the performers and venues that Henry loved. In the course of her quest, she meets James Forester (Johnny Flynn), Henry’s musical idol, whose success and fame belie a shy and private man. A strong romantic connection sparks between Franny and James, set against the backdrop of Brooklyn’s modern-folk music scene.
The James Forester Franny sees onstage is charismatic in a modest, folky way— captivating an adoring crowd with his well-known and well-loved songs and his plaintive vocals, evocative, personal lyrics, and multilayered dobro guitar and violin. Offstage, James is shy but kindly with the fans who press him for autographs and hugs. Overcoming her embarrassment, Franny approaches James to tell him Henry’s story and give him a copy of Henry’s CD. In her quest to absorb as much as she can about to absorb as much as she can about Henry’s life and the music world he loved, Franny takes Henry’s notebook as her guide, seeking out artists and venues that he admired. Franny captures it all with a sound recorder, hoping the playback in Henry’s hospital room will somehow rouse his brain to consciousness. Unexpectedly, James shows up in Henry’s hospital room, guitar in hand. Not only did James actually listen to the CD, he thought enough of Henry’s talent – and it seems, of Franny – to come visit.
In the spirit of stimulating Henry’s brain, James sings him a song, a sad elegy to a vanished mother. Franny sees that the way to understand a contradiction like James—private, inward and self-effacing, yet publicly successful—is through his words and music. Her great regret is that she never got to know her own brother in the same way. As the attraction between them begins to glimmer, James and Franny start to spend late nights together, exploring music ranging from open mic night to stomping bluegrass to smoky chanteuse to old-school soul, dancing to high-energy electronica, pre-dawns on a rooftop and the Greenpoint waterfront watching the skyline, telling each other their stories, making up silly songs, falling in love, confiding. Franny confesses that she cut off contact with Henry because she disapproved of him dropping out of college to pursue his musical dream, and James admits that he hasn’t been able to write a single song since his first album achieved acclaim. James will soon wrap up his tour and return to his isolated cabin in Maine. Meanwhile, the weight of Henry’s condition hangs over everything.
As James’ tour winds down, Franny witnesses two breakthroughs – Henry’s eyes flickering back to consciousness, and James, in his last tour show, debuting a new song inspired by Henry and dedicated to her. Whether her bond with James was a fleeting moment or the start of a long story, Franny has won her own breakthroughs too—another chance with family, a love of music, and a more open heart.
“Song One” opens March 25 in cinemas nationwide from Pioneer Films.