Hopes were high for this historical drama with a detective intrigue at its heart, but the cinematic adaptation falls disappointingly short.
Tim Roth and Clive Owen star in François Girard’s historical drama with a detective intrigue at its heart. The Song Of Names centers around what happened to young Polish musical prodigy Dovidl, who disappears on the night of his much-anticipated first public performance. Years later, his best friend Martin (Roth) sets out to solve a decade-spanning mystery.
Hopes were high for this adaptation of Norman Lebrecht’s novel, as Girard has proven – especially with his seminal The Red Violin – that he can handle a classical-music mystery and interweave the tragic and the personal against a sweeping historical backdrop. And The Song Of Names’ premise feels finely tuned to the filmmaker’s strengths. However, as the central mystery unravels, so do interest levels, and what could have been an emotionally devastating story ends up falling short of powerful due to the increasingly tiresome dual timeline structure, some ear-scrapingly trite dialogue, and a whodunit conceit that feels cheated of its urgency with a flat payoff. Despite The Constant Gardener screenwriter Jeffrey Caine on script duty and both Roth and Owen’s strong turns, The Song Of Names feels like a missed opportunity.
The Song Of Names / Directed by François Girard (Canada / Hungary / UK, 2019), with Jonah Hauer-King, Tim Roth, Clive Owen, Catherine McCormack. Starts August 06.