Written by Corey Bennett.
The gist. Sam (Billy Crudup) is an advertising exec; living the fast life. After a campus shooting that claims the life of his son, Josh, Sam turns to alcohol and his life quickly spirals out of control. Fast forward two years and we find Sam hiding away on a houseboat, painting houses during the day, and drinking away the night. One day his ex-wife shows up with some of Josh’s personal belongings and leaves them with Sam. Amongst the possessions, Sam finds Josh’s old guitar and a box of demo recordings. Sam listens to the recordings, reads through a notebook full of lyrics, and begins learning to play Josh’s songs. Sam decides to play one of Josh’s songs at an open mic night and catches the attention of a young musician, Quentin (Anton Yelchin). Quentin and Sam bond over the music and quickly form a band that begins gaining local attention. Only Sam knows the origins of the songs they play, but when Josh’s former girlfriend (Selena Gomez) enters the picture to bring the truth to light, Sam must face the consequences.
Billy Crudup and Anton Yelchin are both outstanding. They have great chemistry and do a great job both acting and singing. William H. Macy makes an impressive directorial debut guiding you through the ups and downs of the story and the changes in tone.
A revelation in the later half of the film forces you to re-evaluate some of your thoughts and feelings about the decisions made by Sam earlier in the film. Despite school shootings becoming all too prevalent today, I had previously never seen it addressed in a film and certainly not from this unexpected perspective.
What doesn’t work?
Selena Gomez is bad. She has very few scenes and lines, but they are just unfortunate. Also, Kate Miccuci’s (Garfunkel & Oates) cameo at the open mic night felt really out of place and felt pointless.
This movie takes you on an emotional journey with an original story, great acting, and outstanding original music. After watching the movie, you’ll be searching for the soundtrack.
Recommended if you like: Once, Almost Famous, World’s Greatest Dad.