Austin Film Festival 2015 Review: I SAW THE LIGHT

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

2015’s festival offered the highly anticipated biopic of Hank Williams starring Tom Hiddleston in the lead role.  The British actor, best known for portraying Loki in three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, not only portrays the legendary country music singer, but does all of the singing in the film as well.  Hiddleston delivers outstanding work in both areas, but unfortunately the film leaves more to be desired.

Between the 1940s and early 1950s, Hiram King “Hank” Williams made a name for himself in the world of country music.  As a singer/songwriter his legacy of songs would end up becoming iconic and influential for decades of music artists inspired by his work.  His reputation as a hell-raiser also has become the stuff of legend and infamy. Williams was known not only for his musical talents, but also for his hard partying and womanizing.    Suffering from chronic back pain and obviously some inner demons, Williams’ alcoholism and prescription drug abuse would eventually be his undoing and the talented artist would die way too young at the age of 29.

Even though Hiddleston’s performance is quite exception, this film really isn’t.  For the most part Abrams follows the typical biopic formula, depicting the rise and fall of a great talent.  His film only scratches the surface and never digs deep into what really inspired Hank Williams to write such beautiful and haunting lyrics and what demons drove him to such abusive behavior.  The film also features solid acting by Elizabeth Olsen, who portrays Hank’s first wife Audrey, and other talented actors such as Bradley Whitford, Cherry Jones, Maddie Hanson, Wrenn Schmidt, and David Krumholtz.  Because the film is less impressive than the performances of the cast, I cannot recommend this film as a theatrical viewing, but do encourage fans of Williams or other interested parties to watch via a home video format.

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