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I Saw The Light


Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Bradley Whitford, David Krumholtz, Cherry Jones, Maddie Hasson, Wes Langlois.

Director: Mark Abraham

Writer-director Mark Abraham’s biopic of renowned county singer Hank Williams I Saw the Light, was released in the same week as Florence Foster Jenkins.

But the two tales of the legendary American singers could hardly be more different.

Where Florence Foster Jenkins takes a predominantly comic view of the legendary screeching ‘singer’, I Saw the Light is an essentially by-the-rules Hollywood offering that centres on Williams’ life from the age of 21 and his increasingly rocky marriage to Audrey, his rise to fame until, dependent on drugs and drink, he died of a heart attack in the back of his car at the age of 29.

Abraham, making sure that his film allows the audience to learn about and appreciate Williams’ genius as a singer along with his human flaws, comments: "Hank was in some ways probably the first rock star. It’s hard to question that. I’m not sure how many people truly understand how influential (he was). Certainly Dylan understands it. Springsteen understands it. Neil Young understands it”.

No doubt he’s right. But it is not necessary to be a country music addict to appreciate Tom Hiddleston’s extraordinary, award-worthy portrait of Williams which raises I Saw the Light far above its essentially by-the-numbers biopic tropes and clichés.

Hiddleston not only has Williams’ Alabama accent down pat (a cause of praise on its own) and creates his increasingly conflicted persona with utter credibility but, extraordinarily, sings Williams’ songs convincingly, no mean feat for the London-born actor and more than compensates for the pointless and pretentious piece that was Exhibition.

Elizabeth Olsen skillfully portrays Williams’ first wife Audrey who seeks fame but lacks the talent to achieve it and the other roles are competently filled but the triumph is essentially Hiddleston’s.

Let’s hope he doesn’t end up serving up stunts and sneers as the next 007. He is worth much more than that.

Alan Frank

USA 2015. UK Distributor: Sony. Colour.
123 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 07 May 2016