Austin Film Festival Review: I Saw the Light


Director:Marc Abraham

Cast:Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, David Krumholtz

Running Time:123 Minutes


It feels strange to critique a biopic by saying it's predictable. By definition, a biopic is a film about an individual's life "“ something that is inherently unique or special to be seen as biopic-worthy. However, I Saw the Light is incredibly predictable. It practically feels like a musician biopic template with characters simply dropped in to their respective places.

I Saw the Light chronicles the short and tragic life of country music legend Hank Williams, played wholeheartedly by Tom Hiddleston. It covers Williams's life from his budding career through to his death. Hank Williams was not only a country legend but was known for his struggles with alcoholism, prescription drug abuse, and womanizing. As much as the film and Hiddleston try, his life is portrayed dryly, and I walked away feeling like I didn't know or care much about Williams.

It's baffling how little passion is in I Saw the Light. As the film progresses, it seems to tick off tortured musician tropes. He drinks too much, he's quick to anger, he cheats on his wife, they have a child, she finally divorces him and his personal demons get worse as his fame increases. Yet somehow, these emotionally charged events come across bland on screen. It simply feels like a list checked off instead of someone's actual life.

That's not to say that Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen don't give their all. In fact, Hiddleston is incredibly committed to his performance. He sung all the songs himself and did endless research into the role. He learned how to yodel and clearly did as much as he possibly could to prepare. Perhaps that effort is too apparent on screen. I was always somewhat aware of Hiddleston as Williams instead of just watching the country legend on screen. Meanwhile, Olsen creates a truly empathetic and authentic character in Audrey "“ a wife torn between loving her destructive husband and doing what's best for her and her son.

Mostly, I walked away from I Saw the Light puzzled and sad. While the film only covers a short period of time (Williams died at 29), the singer certainly lived a full and exciting life yet that excitement didn't translate on screen. It's sad that an effort like this falters for someone as renowned as Williams. I can only hope that one day a filmmaker figures out how to do his story justice.


About Katie Anaya

Katie Anaya

Leave a Reply