I Saw the Light
There is surely nothing more soul-destroying than completing a feature film after years of hard work, only to have it ripped so triumphantly apart by, well, everyone. I Saw the Light is a biopic about the rise of country and western singer Hank Williams and the toll it took on his health and personal life. Tom Hiddleston plays the troubled musician, joined by Elizabeth Olsen as Williams’ first wife Audrey Sheppard.
The narrative begins in a dark, rainy Texaco station at the moment Williams and Sheppard married; there is no romantic build-up or sweeping-off-feet action, and this sets the tone for the rest of the film. The thick accents and over-stylised production design means it’s easy to forget this is first and foremost a biopic, a retracing of Williams’ steps. His infidelity and alcoholism are approached both subtly and all-at-once – there is no denying, after all, that the substance abuse is the catalyst for all that eventually crumbles. Hiddleston and Olsen’s on-screen chemistry has been questioned by many critics but they perfectly depict a young couple struggling through a marriage clouded with addiction, doubt and affairs.
There is not much to smile about here. The movie has chosen to skim over the sweet or tender and focus purely on the crucial points of Williams’ career, jumping months or years after an issue has made itself clear (be it the breakdown of his marriage or the return of his spinal problems after a fall in the woods). This approach makes for a rather jumpy structure that feels somewhat impatient. In an attempt to smooth the surface and fill the gaps, documentary-style footage is inserted with the purpose of delivering as much information in as little time possible – it is unimaginative storytelling, but it gets the job done.
All of this is not to say that I Saw the Light is not enjoyable. The performances from the main cast are brilliant and Hiddleston transforms into a honky-tonk singing, stetson wearing Southern icon. If viewers approach this film expecting a great script and smooth storyline they may be disappointed; If, however, they approach it as a step-by-step biopic of a tragically talented man and the life he led, it is thoroughly engaging.
I Saw the Light is released nationwide on 6th May 2016.
Watch the trailer for I Saw the Light here: