SXSW 2024: The Greatest Hits – using music to travel back in time

Photo by Laurie Coker

‘The Greatest Hits’ is a film that explores the depths of grief and the power of music to transport us through time and memory. Directed by Ned Benson, the movie follows Harriet (Lucy Boynton) as she grapples with the loss of her boyfriend Max (David Corenswet) in a tragic car accident. Using music as her lifeline, Harriet navigates the pain of her loss by immersing herself in the songs that define their relationship.

At its core, ‘The Greatest Hits’ presents an intriguing premise promising to delve into love and loss’s emotional complexities. The film’s unique concept of using music as a conduit to revisit memories initially captures the audience’s attention.

Lucy Boynton delivers a poignant performance as Harriet, effectively conveying the raw anguish and longing that consumes her character. Boynton skillfully portrays Harriet’s journey through grief, from denial and desperation to eventual acceptance. Her portrayal anchors the film and provides a relatable entry point for audiences to connect with the story.

Justin H. Min also shines as David, a fellow mourner who forms a connection with Harriet. Min brings warmth and sincerity to his character, providing a comforting presence amid Harriet’s turmoil. The chemistry between Boynton and Min is palpable, adding depth to their burgeoning relationship and offering moments of genuine tenderness amid the film’s somber tone.

However, despite the strength of its performances, The Greatest Hits struggles to fully capitalize on its intriguing premise. The film often feels disjointed and meandering, and more narrative cohesion would sustain audience engagement. Character development could be minimal, with supporting players like Morris (Austin Crute) and Retta (Retta) feeling underutilized and one-dimensional.

Additionally, incorporating time travel elements adds unnecessary complexity to the story, detracting from Harriet’s journey’s emotional resonance. While the film’s exploration of grief is undeniably poignant, including fantastical elements feels forced and detracts from the narrative’s authenticity.

Despite its shortcomings, ‘The Greatest Hits’ boasts a stellar soundtrack that effectively complements the film’s themes. The music is a powerful storytelling device, evoking emotions and memories that resonate with Harriet’s journey. Songs like Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like A Bird” and The The’s “This Is The Day” enhance the film’s emotional impact and provide poignant moments of reflection.

‘The Greatest Hits’ offers mixed emotions and experiences. While it succeeds in capturing moments of genuine poignancy and introspection, its narrative shortcomings and tonal inconsistencies prevent it from reaching its full potential. Nevertheless, strong performances from Lucy Boynton and Justin H. Min and a memorable soundtrack make it a film worth experiencing for those willing to embrace its flaws. With a few tweaks and adjustments, ‘The Greatest Hits’ could have been a truly memorable cinematic experience, but as it stands, it’s a heartfelt but flawed exploration of love, loss, and the power of music.

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