Published Apr 07, 2016Veteran producer Marc Abraham returns to the director's chair for I Saw the Light, a film about country crooner Hank Williams (played by a perfectly cast Tom Hiddleston) and his short but inspiring career. It's no doubt a labour of love, but in a lot of ways, I Saw the Light feels insufficient.
Based on Colin Escott's 2004 biography on the hard-livin' honky-tonk star, I Saw the Light seems like it was constructed from Coles Notes rather than the book itself, with each scene offering only a brief snapshot into his life, with little context for his moves and motives. Abraham has an earnest eye here, but he never quite connects the dots as to why Williams' incessant infidelities, drinking and drug taking were related to the pressures of industry and artistry.
Hiddleston, to his credit, is at the top of his game here, and fully embodies the character (even if his aw-shucks demeanour and dumb wonderment can get a bit tiring at times); Elizabeth Olsen, similarly, is consistently captivating as his romantic and sometimes musical partner Audrey.
Unfortunately, I Saw the Light merely plods along from one scene to the next, allowing no moments of reflection for its characters (or the viewer) while long, drawn out scenes give little context for the emotions unfolding. Things only get shaken up during its final act, when Williams' declining health starts to get the best of him, captured cinéma vérité-style to squeeze out the last few bits of tension.
Staunchly traditional, I Saw the Light doesn't do enough to drive interest for a story that's definitely worth telling.