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“The Song of Names” A Powerful Tribute

 

 

 

Review by John Delia

A brilliant film that delves into the life of a man who brought music into the lives of people who were caught up in the most intolerable time in history. Set in London during World War II not everyone was afraid to help those who found themselves in danger of being persecuted. Not like most views of the Nazi scourge, this one turns the camera on a Jewish prodigy that was born to bring a message of hope and remembrance to his disrupted world.
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In a moment of chance, Dovidl Rapaport (Luke Doyle), a young boy of nine, who’s a violin prodigy from Poland, gets invited to live with Gilbert (Stanley Townsend) a music publisher. Introduced to Gilbert’s son of the same age, Martin (Misha Handley) slowly accepts the intrusion and they strike up a brotherly relationship. As attention to Dovidl (Jonah Hauer-King) grows, he becomes a violin virtuoso and we find him now an accomplished man. On the occasion he’s slated to play at a 1951 London debut concert to launch his imminent career, he disappears.

Center: Dovidl (played by Jonah Hauer-King)
© Sabrina Lantos. Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics.

Thus begins a story of mystery as years later Martin (Tim Roth) gets word that Dovidl may be still alive. Searching for his friend and reasons why he left so bluntly, Martin starts to get nearer his quest. Director François Girard who delivered the mysterious drama The Red Violin to the big screen, takes reign over the script and shows once again the power of his work. Moving the story from a daunting past to challenging times, he takes his audience into the life of a young boy separated from his endangered family. It’s a heartfelt and heart rending experience that makes Girard’s film a pervasive drama that should touch not only the Jewish community, but every fan of the genre.

What makes the film convincing however, is the acting by Tim Roth and Clive Owen who depict their characters within an age of uncertainty and a vague future for both Martin and Dovidl. Roth’s Martin gets determined to find his lost friend and find out why he would not be contacted him after such a long time. It’s a pivotal role and one that connects with reasons and a final amazing performance of a special violin concerto.

 

Left to Right: Martin (played by Gerran Howell), Helen (played by Marina Hambro),
Dovidl (played by Jonah Hauer-King)
© Sabrina Lantos. Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics.

While all three of the actors who play Dovidl are very good, it’s Owen who has to show the pain and suffering in the search for his family. It’s the powerful moment when Martin and Dovidl meet in the finale and makes the film so magnetic. The actor who plays the young 9-year-old Dovidl, Misha Handley, actually plays the violin piece you see in the film. It’s his first time in front of the camera and he nails the performance and the character. As the older Dovidl, Jonah Hauer-King has the task of playing Dovidl at age 17-21 just before the young man disappears leaving a full theatre without the performance of his lifetime.

Center: Martin (played by Tim Roth)
© Sabrina Lantos. Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

The Song of Names has been rated PG-13 for some strong language, brief sexual material, thematic elements, and smoking.

FINAL ANALYSIS: One of the better films for taut drama fans of the past decade. (5 out of 5 Stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Clive Owen, Tim Roth, Jonah Hauer-King, Gerran Howell, Luke Doyle, Misha Handley, Catherine Mccormack, Eddie Izzard, Saul Rubinek, Richard Bremmer, Stanley Townsend, Amy Sloan
Directed by: François Girard
Genre: Drama
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some strong language, brief sexual material, thematic elements, and smoking
Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.
Opening Date: January 10, 2020
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Released in: Theaters in English

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