Tom Hiddleston is far from the obvious choice to play legendary American country singer Hank Williams, yet he delivers a truly remarkable performance, pulling off Williams’ lean physique and Southern accent and producing very credible versions of his haunting songs.
He’s much better than writer-director Marc Abraham’s biopic, I Saw the Light, which chronicles the final decade in Williams’ turbulent, self-destructive life, from his marriage to first wife Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen) at an Alabama gas station in 1944 to his early death en route to a New Year’s Day concert in 1953 at the age of 29.
Williams’ brief life was packed with boozing and womanising as well as the creation of dozens of songs, including ‘Cold, Cold Heart’, ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’, ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ and the title tune, but Abraham’s film (based on Colin Escott’s biography) tramps from one incident to another without giving us much insight into what made its subject tick, still less the source of his songwriting genius. The fake black-and-white interview footage of Williams’ manager and producer Fred Rose (Bradley Whitford) that intersperses the narrative is a typical misstep.
‘Folk music, hillbilly, it’s sincere. There’s nothing phony about it,’ Williams tells a journalist at one stage. Despite Hiddleston’s sensational lead performance, the same can’t be said for the film.
Certificate 15. Runtime 124 mins. Director Marc Abraham