The Score premieres at Edinburgh International Film Festival on 18 August 2022
Johnny Flynn is one of the finest – and surprisingly underrated, he should be Ed Sheeran levels of popularity – musicians around, so it was only a matter of time before a musical was built around his incredible folk songs. Written and directed by Malachi Smyth built around a wide range of Flynn’s tales, crime-thriller-musical The Score is both an incredible testament to Flynn’s songwriting talent but also a genuinely compelling thriller in its own right.
Feeling like a British indie Hateful Eight, the film takes place almost entirely within a roadside cafe in the middle of nowhere. Two small-time crooks (Flynn and Will Poulter) are waiting for a meeting which promises a huge ‘score’. But as the day goes on, tensions rise as the true nature of their reason for being there begins to come to light. Complicating matters is beautiful and mysterious waitress Gloria (Naomi Ackie), who Poulter’s Troy begins to fall for – and ultimately, question his criminal lifestyle. With stunning new interpretations of Flynn staples such as The Water and In the Deepest, the dark, twisty folk tale at the heart of the film proves a perfect setting for the music. Strip the music away, and you’d still have a cracking little indie thriller. Add the music, and you have something unforgettable. The songs compliment the film, and the film compliments the songs.
With a small selection of lived in, complex characters – including a brief, memorable appearance from Lucian Msamati – and a genuine sense of tension and mystery throughout, the film’s 100 minute runtime flies by. The pacing moves along at a brisk pace and each of the film’s twists and turns feel earned and organic. But it isn’t all thrills; The Score also boasts oodles of heart. Combining violent, Coen Brothers-esque thrills with whimsical romance and catchy folk numbers is no mean feat, but The Score pulls it off with masterful ease.
With such a small cast and tight setting, there is a theatrical feel to proceedings that also compliments the finished product and gives it a greater sense of urgency and immersion. Indeed, the use of pre-existing tracks does give the film a very West End ‘jukebox musical’ feel, although I can’t imagine it will ever reach the audience of Mamma Mia…A shame, though, as it certainly deserves it.
Impeccably written and directed by Malachi Smyth with natural performances, hauntingly beautiful music and rich, bleak cinematography, The Score is a magnificent film that oozes passion and love for the craft of filmmaking and each of the genres it combines. And boy, Johnny Flynn is really one of the best, isn’t he? A double threat in his remarkable acting and immense musical talent, Flynn is a master.
This is a bold, memorable and expectation-subverting masterpiece that deserves a huge audience and a bounty of praise. I cannot recommend it enough. The Score is truly special. You’ve never seen anything like it.
THE SCORE has its UK premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival this week followed by general release on 9 September 2022