Film Review: I Saw The Light

Posted in Reviews, Top Stories by - April 01, 2016
Film Review: I Saw The Light

Biopics often glamorize stars and shame their friends and families, but I Saw the Light, the story of Hank Williams, treats everyone on as fairly as possible, trying to give a true and accurate history of his quick and deadly rise to fame. The movie tells the story of the emergence of Hank Williams (played by Tom Hiddleston) from the local Alabama music scene to his stunning debut at the Grand Ole Opry, starting with his marriage in 1944 to Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen) to his death on New Year’s Day in 1953.

The acting is stupendous. Tom Hiddleston is someone I never would have imagined as a southern country singer. But, wow, he pulls it off. As someone who grew up listening to country music, and Hank Williams, my mind was very set about how Williams should be portrayed. Hiddleston hits it. He does an amazing job balancing the tragic and tortuous with the happy and high moments of the life of Hank Williams. The smile he perfected while singing – and it’s worth noting that Hiddleston did actually sing all the songs during the movie! – made me swoon, and I think everyone will understand Hank Williams’ appeal and the rock-star qualities he possessed that made his life so destructive and deliriously good at different points.

Elizabeth Olsen was splendid, too. She did fail at having a bad voice, though – even when she sang poorly, she sang well. Her happiness and heartbreak at the hands of Hank were realistic and believable. Even when the audience might not agree with her actions, it was clear that she was behind them 100%, which made it impossible to not feel sympathy for her.

Bobbie Jett (Wrenn Schmidt) stole the show in her scenes. She was so sincere and broken by what Williams did to her. She found a “rich and dangerous” man that she loved, and when he refused to marry her, her reaction would bring even the most jaded audience member to her side.

Cherry Jones played Lille Williams, Hank’s mother, and perfectly captured the woman she portrayed. It was easy to both hate her and understand her. She was not kind to Hank’s wives, but she had been the only woman in his life, and she had been there while his father was absent, so it’s possible to fully comprehend her feelings towards her son and the world.

Humor in the movie helped smooth out the harshness. Hank was not an easy man to love and get along with, but he was honest, and his honesty was often amusing, keeping the audience connected to the man and his music, as well as his life and his loves.

I did have some questions about how accurate it was to history. Director Marc Abraham stated that, “I Saw the Light tells Williams’ story as truthfully and accurately as possible. It doesn’t manipulate events or make up scenes to illustrate his talent.”  I can believe that, however, for it being such a turbulent time in history (spanning 1944 to 1953), very little of the world around the main players was mentioned, much less its effect shown on them.

The costuming and sets were outstanding. In a scene that takes place at the Williams’ new house, the kitchen looks like it was taken right out of the 1940’s, and Olsen’s twirling of a fur coat to show off their new wealth was believable and helped to lend to the authenticity that appeared in every scene.

At the same time, certain aspects of life in the 1940s and early 1950s were glossed over. Audrey and Hank’s divorce was quickly passed by, and his relationship with his children was also not given much time or attention. For a two-hour movie, his drug use was only shown in bits and spurts, making it unclear to those who didn’t know his history just how much it had to do with his early death. Another thing that was not well covered was the relationship he had with the rest of the band: they are sometimes replaced by another backing band, but we only see one confrontation over it. Even when he tries to quit the band’s job at the radio station for them because of his anger at the manager, we don’t see any argument about it from the band members whose livelihoods would be impacted. Only the reactions of his wife and mother are shown.

The movie ends rather abruptly. While I believe it is true to life, I would have appreciated the movie to have more foreshadowing and perhaps give us a few moments of what came after: I’d have liked to see a quick hint of his son, Hank Williams’ Jr. and his future. Overall, though, the movie came through on its promises, letting a new generation fall in love with the music and life of Hank Williams.

Official Trailer:

Please follow and like us:
This post was written by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *