Song One is a film about the connective power of music. The film opens when Henry, a struggling yet budding young musician, is hit by a car and falls into a coma from which he may never wake up. His sister Franny, an anthropology student portrayed by Anne Hathaway, rushes home upon hearing the news of her brother’s condition. She begins to reconnect with her estranged brother through listening to recordings of his songs and exploring his personal notebook, which contained song lyrics, favorite places for musical inspiration, and a fateful concert ticket to see his favorite artist, James Forrester (portrayed by Johnny Flynn). Franny decides to attend the concert and sparks a relationship with James, connecting with him through their shared experiences with music.
Perhaps the most appropriate representation of the film’s main thrust can be found in the lyrics to “Silver Song,” which was sung towards the end of the film by James Forester. It sums up the transformation James had gone through after his experiences with Franny and her brother Henry: “Now I do believe in the mystical, that we have a vague connection to the other world.”
Following Song One’s screening at Sundance, I asked director Kate Barker-Froyland about the creative process involved with writing the lyrics to the film’s songs, and specifically about the conception of this line from “Silver Song.” She confirmed that it was a result of James witnessing what had happened with Henry and how that powerful experience had changed his understanding of the world. Indeed, although Franny tried many things to rouse her brother, the thing that finally brought him out of his coma was music. James saw this, and as a result he now believes that music has the power to connect us to the “other world.”
Music certainly does have an almost immeasurable quality to it, something truly mystical or spiritual. Music can connect us to other human beings (as James and Franny learned, since their relationship was indelibly forged through the fire of many different types of music), and it can also connect us to Something bigger than ourselves, Something that is not of this world.