Based on the novel of the same name by Norman Lebrecht, "The Song of Names" is a bit too stuffy and predictable to have this critic sing its praises.
Two young boys, Martin and David, in WWII-era England, share an incredibly close friendship. On the eve of his first concert performance, David - a superb violinist - disappears altogether. Nearly four decades later, Martin (Tim Roth), discovers some evidence of David's (Clive Owen) whereabouts, and it leads him on a path to find and reunite with his long-lost brother.
One gets the feeling that this is one of those movies adapted from a novel that will make fans of the novel quite happy. It contains pain-staking details and seems to spend a lot of time creating context between the two main characters that other movies might not have had the patience to do. The problem is, it asks for a lot of patience from the audience as well, and the story is so slow and deliberately paced, that it's really hard to invest in.
Things improve by the time that - spoiler alert! - Martin discovers David's whereabouts, but by then the impact seems dissipated. Told in flashbacks - too many, to be honest, as the better actors exist in the later timeline yet they yield much of the movie to their younger counterparts - this seems like a standard Oscar-bait-type movie circa the late 80s or early 90s. But there's just not much here from a cinematic perspective, to make this movie feel fresh, alive or relevant to today.
"The Song of Names" has some striking moments in its latter half, but by then, this tune was already one I was trying to get out of my head.
Run Time: 1 hour 53 minutes.
Starring: Tim Roth, Clive Owen, Catherine McCormack, Jonah Hauer-King, Eddie Izzard.
Based on the novel by Norman Lebrecht.
Directed by Francois Girard ("Boychoir," "Silk," "The Red Violin").
"The Song of Names" is in theaters on Friday, January 31st, 2020.
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