We gave it a B+
The Irish, with their sly blend of cynicism and sentimentality, are perfect movie characters for an era like this one — an era which people don’t really believe in happy endings but are desperate to have them anyway. Peter Chelsom’s Hear My Song is a serenely blessed-out comic fable — and exuberant piece of blarney — that builds to a finale so upbeat it’s like a sunbeam. What animates the movie, though, is the unstated melancholy at its core.
Micky O?Neill (Adrian Dunbar), a casually unscrupulous music-hall impresario living in England, cons the local Irish population into his small-town nightclub with such ersatz acts as ”Franc Cinatra” His game catches up with him when he books the mysterious Mr. X, a man claiming to be the legendary Irish tenor Josef Locke. Locke, it seems, has been in hiding for 25 years, ever since he fled England to avoid tax-evasion charges. When X turns out to be an imposter, Micky redeems himself by journeying to the Irish countryside to search out the real Josef Locke (Ned Beatty).
The beguiling whimsy of Hear My Song makes it seem an Irish cousin to Bill Forsyth’s incandescent Local Hero (1983) and, indeed, the whole movie is a fairytale riff on Forsyth’s. Once again, a selfish young man leaves the city for a mystical green island, and land booze and brogues and unearthly beauty. Seduced by the soulful eccentricity of people he meets there, he discovers the pleasure of opening his heart. Another yuppie redemption fable? In a way, only this one feels like Irish barroom chantey magically come to life. Adrian Dunbar, who cowrote the script, has a goony, lilting edge; you root for Micky without quite forgetting what a heel he is. And Ned Beatty plays the golden-throated Locke with a testy romanticism that does justice to the character’s legendary billing. Hear My Song isn’t much more than an anecdote, but the actors lend this sweet, delicate wisp of a movie a surprisingly large spirit. B+