If you lost someone you love, how long would you search for them before giving up? Would you eventually let the memories fade into a sense of muted closure? Or would you devote your life to solving this potentially unsolvable mystery? These questions and more are at the center of The Song of Names, a new film starring Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs) and Clive Owen (Gemini Man) from acclaimed director François Girard. Girard’s The Red Violin follows the titular instrument across different time periods and characters. In some ways, The Song of Names looks to be a spiritual sequel; a theme on a variation, if you will. Here’s the official synopsis from Sony Pictures Classics:
Martin Simmonds (Tim Roth) has been haunted throughout his life by the mysterious disappearance of his “brother” and extraordinary best friend, a Polish Jewish virtuoso violinist, Dovidl Rapaport, who vanished shortly before the 1951 London debut concert that would have launched his brilliant career. Thirty-five years later, Martin discovers that Dovidl (Clive Owen) may still be alive, and sets out on an obsessive intercontinental search to find him and learn why he left.
The film, based on a novel from music commentator turned novelist Norman Lebrecht, looks to be equal parts Oscar-friendly prestige picture and procedural nailbiter — a work as interested in character sensitivity as it is in nail-biting depictions of obsession. While the Roth and Owen-starring portions of the narrative take place in the 1980s, the moments where we see Martin and Dovidl get to know each other during the fraught and terrible beginnings of World War II seem just as captivating. Young performers Jonah Hauer-King (young Roth) and Gerran Howell (young Owen) navigate the innocence of their burgeoning friendship while reckoning with the truth of what’s happening around them. In real life, the “song of names” referred to pieces of music Jewish composers wrote to commemorate those who died in the Holocaust. The film looks to delve into these tragic circumstances with equal parts sensitivity and intrigue.
Here’s the first trailer for the film, which debuted at TIFF and will open in select theatres Christmas Day:
For more arthouse mysteries, check out our interview with Edward Norton and Gugu Mbatha-Raw about Motherless Brooklyn.