- Hans Weber
- December 6, 2023
‘You Sing Loud, I Sing Louder’ KVIFF Echoes 2023 review: road trip with Ewan and Clara McGregor
A father embarks on an uneasy road trip with his teenage daughter after her near-fatal overdose in You Sing Loud, I Sing Louder, which was introduced by stars Ewan McGregor and real-life daughter Clara McGregor at this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival after premiering at SXSW.
This heartfelt feature debut from director Emma Westenberg is lightly written (from a story by Clara McGregor, Ruby Caster, and Vera Bulder) and at times uneventful, but bolstered by two captivating lead performances that dig uneasily into their character’s troubled souls. Clara McGregor, in particular, is a revelation in what should be a breakout role.
You Sing Loud, I Sing Louder stars Ewan McGregor as the unnamed father, a former alcoholic who was largely absent from the life of his daughter (Clara McGregor), even when he was physically around. Now clean and with a new family, he reunites with his daughter after she has a near-fatal overdose.
Dad plans to drive his daughter across the American southwest to a rehab clinic, though he hasn’t filled her in on all the details. Along the way, they meet a few colorful characters including a tow truck driver (former soap star Kim Zimmer) who lends them a hand, and a birthday clown (It Follows‘ Jake Weary, Zimmer’s real-life son).
Co-writer Bulder has a scene-stealing as a sex worker who checks out the daughter after a spider bite in a most unfortunate location, and Travis Hammer appears as a liquor store patron who may not have the best of intentions towards the daughter.
But the bulk of You Sing Loud, I Sing Louder is left to the father and daughter as the film explores their hostile relationship. While dad is entirely well-intentioned, his daughter can’t see through a troubled past to let him into her heart. Affectionate black-and-white flashbacks capture a fondly-remembered relationship that has been lost to time.
And despite being only hours removed from a near-death experience, the daughter’s insatiable thirst for alcohol, pills, or anything else that will let her escape her current reality provides You Sing Loud, I Sing Louder a thin structure to hang its narrative.
You Sing Loud, I Sing Louder features some gritty cinematography by Christopher Ripley that evocatively captures its landscape, and director Westenberg has a great feel for the American wasteland setting. Still, there’s just not much going on here, story-wise: even more sparse than the typical road movie, the same material could have condensed into a thirty-minute short without losing much.
Two arresting performances keep You Sing Loud, I Sing Louder watchable, however, and the strength of the lived-in roles played by Ewan and Clara McGregor is enough to warrant a recommendation. It’s rare to see this kind of family dynamic played out by a real-life parent and their child, and the raw and honest work by the McGregors here is fascinating.