I Saw the Light
dir-scr Marc Abraham
prd Brett Ratner, Marc Abraham, Aaron L Gilbert, G Marq Roswell
with Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Bradley Whitford, Cherry Jones, Maddie Hasson, Wrenn Schmidt, Wes Langlois, Will Beinbrink, Von Cleve Lewis, Joshua Brady, David Krumholtz, Josh Pais
release US 25.Mar.16, UK 6.May.16
15/US RatPac 2h03
I Saw the Light
Hey Good Lookin': Olsen and Hiddleston

hiddleston whitford jones
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
I Saw the Light The tragically short life of country star Hank Williams is recounted in this choppy biopic. It's sharply well-played but written and directed by Marc Abraham with little insight into either the people or the situations. And it leaps through the years without providing enough information for the audience to engage with it.

Born in Alabama, Hank Williams (Hiddleston) rises to fame through weekly radio programmes with a goal of getting to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. His wife Audrey (Olsen) jostles with his mother Lillie (Jones) to manage his career, along with help from music publisher Fred Rose (Whitford). At age 26 in 1949 his first No 1 single finally earns him a slot at the Opry, where he becomes a bright young star. But chronic back pain leads him into alcohol and drug abuse, which sabotages his career, friendships, marriage and health.

The film leaps through Williams' life without ever building much sense of momentum. Oddly, scenes and entire sequences feel unfinished, never quite coming to their point before jumping on to something else, which leaves the narrative fragmented and unclear. People come and go, relationships start and stop, conversations seem to be about nothing at all. It's an infuriating approach that, while avoiding the usual biographical structure, never attempts to find meaning or resonance in Williams' singular talents, career or personal life.

That said, Hiddleston is magnetic in the role, even performing the songs himself. He gives Williams the intriguing inner life that's otherwise lacking in the script, which helps provide a sense of continuity through the movie's awkwardly paced anecdotes. And his chemistry with Olsen, as well as other lovers played by Hasson and Schmidt, has a gentle emotional honesty even if filmmaker Abraham fails to connect the dots in any of Williams' relationships.

A key problem is that the film fails to properly depict either Williams' talent or his failings. There's never any sense that he has become a major star, and his alcoholism and womanising are merely referred to without any meaningful context. Instead, Abraham punctuates the movie with meaningless interview clips and fake home movies that reveal nothing at all. What's left is a mopey, jarringly uneven look at a man wasting away before our eyes. So there are no emotions to feel by the time he dies of heart failure, exacerbated by drugs and alcohol, at age 29.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 2.Mar.16

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