Barbie isn’t this award season’s only contender with multiple strong tunes in the running for best original song Oscar nominations.
Flora and Son, the latest music-centric film written and directed by Irishman John Carney — on the heels of 2007’s Once, for which “Falling Slowly” won the best original song Oscar; 2013’s Begin Again, for which “Lost Stars” was nominated for that same award; and 2016’s Sing Street, for which “Drive It Like You Stole It” nearly was — is packed to the gills with catchy original tunes.
But, The Hollywood Reporter has learned, Carney and Flora and Son’s distributor, Apple, decided to formally submit just two songs ahead of the Nov. 1 best original song submission deadline, in the hope of improving the prospects of landing both compositions on the shortlist of 15 songs and eventual list of five nominees.
The submitted works are “Meet in the Middle,” in which Flora (Eve Hewson), an Irish working-class single mom, and her guitar instructor Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a struggling American musician, bond over via Zoom, and “High Life,” which Flora, her son and others perform publicly late in the film. Both songs were co-written by Carney, Gary Clark and Hewson (a daughter of U2’s Bono). Hewson, meanwhile, performs both in the film, the former opposite Gordon-Levitt (who is also credited as one of its writers, as is Robert John Ardiff), and the latter opposite Orén Kinlan.
Carney tells The Hollywood Reporter, “Both ‘Meet In The Middle’ and ‘High Life’ were written very specifically for the character of Flora. Usually in a musical, you’re just looking for the best song ever, but with my films, I am trying to tie the songs in with the people who are performing them, and where they are in their life. The lyrics, and playing, have to seem appropriate to the situations the characters find themselves in. It sounds easier, but it’s often actually harder, because you keep saying, ‘No, that character is not going to say that’ or ‘She’s not that evolved yet,’ and so on. I’m always asking myself, ‘What would this particular character sound like? What are her limitations? What are the parts that make her different from other singers?’”
Continues Carney, “With Once, those songs took an age to finish, and with Begin Again I had three songs in contention for the final song Adam Levine sings. I like writing musicals about real people. I’ve been a musician all my life, and I know many musicians who have failed, or lost, or given up, and they are just as interesting to me as the ones who have won Grammys or Oscars.”
Carney adds, “With Flora and Son, I encouraged the actors to send me lines in character. So Eve and Joe started throwing lines in. The songs are born out of the characters, and are very specifically built around their voices. You really need to believe that they are being written by these guys. When Flora sings that final song, ‘High Life,’ in the pub to her son, and he raps a verse back at her, the song had to do things. It had to sound plausible as a song composed by these two tiny characters but also feel like a hugely momentous moment in both their lives.”