‘I Saw The Light’ – Hank Williams Biopic:
By Jessica Edwards
I don’t think there is a country music fan alive that could say they have never heard of Hank Williams and his legacy. One of the greatest things about Country Music is the respect that its audience and artists have for the genres history and icons. So while I may be primarily a fan of modern country music I am always interested to learn more about the history of the genre that I love so much. I have been looking forward to seeing ‘I Saw The Light’, the biopic of Williams’ life ever since lead actor Tom Hiddleston was spotted performing Hank songs at a festival in 2014.
I have to admit I was a little disappointed to hear that critics were largely negative about this film in the lead up to its release. I had high hopes for ‘I Saw The Light’ to achieve the same sort of popularity that the Johnny Cash biopic ‘Walk The Line’ garnered in 2005. I honestly enjoyed ‘I Saw The Light’ however I can understand where negative reviews came from. I feel this film is much more a character piece than the literal chronological story of his life. The film does not flow as easily as it could; it is slow and certain scenes are oddly put together with strange camera angles that do not always serve a purpose. For this reason it takes a little while to get into and if you are not familiar with every detail of Williams’ life there are moments where you may be confused by what is happening. The film focuses much more on Hank’s life away from the spotlight, his turbulent marriage to first wife, Audrey Williams, and struggles with alcohol and drug abuse. If you were hoping to see a film that details his career as a Country singer then you may be disappointed. We see very little of Hank performing or writing songs. When Hank’s incredible 11 million record sales and 36 Billboard hits are listed at the end of the film it is almost a surprise as you really don’t see evidence of this throughout the film.
Taken as a character piece though I really do think this film does a great job of allowing you to get to know Hank as a man rather than Hank the Country legend. Hiddelston’s impressive portrayal of a troubled young man and the abrupt ending to the film highlight how tragically short and bleak Hank Williams’ life was. I also have to highly commend Tom Hiddleston for singing himself in the film. It cannot be easy for an English man to take on such an iconic voice but I have always preferred when actors use their own voice instead of trying to mime. It is honestly a shame that Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen’s performances were let down by a poorly put together script. Ultimately I feel the film had the potential to be so much better.
I do think ‘I Saw The Light’ is a film that is worth seeing if you are a Country fan, though I would caution that is not as easy to watch as other music biopics may be. I would recommend reading up a little on Hank’s life story first if you aren’t familiar and be prepared to enjoy it as well acted character piece.