The Heartland Film Festival is here this week with numerous amounts of independent films for audiences around the Indianapolis area to see. A few of these only get one screening, like this Hank Williams biopic called I Saw the Light. Seeing as this film only got one slot to be shown at the festival (Tuesday, Oct. 20), was it really something remarkable?
I Saw the Light follows legendary country singer Hank Williams as he rises up to fame to ultimately lose it all. Throughout the film, the audience is taken to multiple and precise dates of certain events in Williams’ life. With the typical formula of a music biopic, viewers will listen to the famous songs of Williams as well as taking a deeper look into his personal life.
Starting with the positives, the acting in the film is quite effective with some committed actors. Tom Hiddleston does a wonderful job playing the popular country singer, bringing in the southern accent and singing abilities. Elizabeth Olson plays the main leading lady, Audrey Williams, and gives more life to the character with her believable performance.
At a premiere of the film, The Daily Mail reported “their chemistry on-screen and off is so strong, Olson found herself having to deny the two were dating in an interview last month.” Olson also brings up how she and Hiddleston have known each other for many years.
Unfortunately, I was not able to see how the viewers thought the chemistry was “strong”. Their bond in the film was dull and redundant. The two seem to always go through the same problems with one another and nothing ever changes. Their problems are honestly never resolved and it leaves a very empty conclusion to their character arcs by the end of the film.
And the problems of the film do not end there. The overall pacing was choppy and repetitive. Every 10-15 minutes, the story kept jumping around to the next date of Williams’ life, and the audience never got to stay in a particular time to fully become invested in what is going on.
The transitions were also jarring to look at because there are countless amount of scenes where there is an issue happening. And thinking that something will resolve, it suddenly jumps to the next thing, completely breaking the mood. There was no real flow in terms of how important scenes were for the film. Other than a couple scenes, it felt like the rest had no purpose and just padded the film to be two hours long.
Characters weren’t very likable either. Williams is portrayed as an alcoholic husband and father that never truly seems to care about what is going on other than his music career (and that is even a stretch to say). This would be fine if he ultimately went through a major change by the end, but it never happens. The filmmakers may have been trying to be accurate with Williams, but there still needs to be a reason to empathize him, or at least understand his viewpoints. The rest of the characters end up being very dull and forgettable due to them not getting enough screen time.
I was excited for this film; but ultimately, it left me unsatisfied and even a bit angry. I haven’t hated a film a long time, but this might be one I remember for all the wrong reasons. I honestly don’t tend to say “hate” for any film, but this one managed to frustrate and disappoint in almost every way possible. Hiddleson says in an interview, “this was the most unexpected privilege for me,” being in Nashville, Tennessee. Many people there adore Hank Williams, and while I’m happy for him, I seriously think there could have been more effort and time put into this film. In the end, I’m not sure I would recommend this film to anyone; except maybe those who are huge, diehard fans of Hank Williams or Tom Hiddleston.