(director/writer: Ethan Hawke; screenwriters: Shelby Gaines, based on the short stories by Flannery O’Connor; cinematographer: Steve Cosens; editor: Barry Polterman; music: Latham Gaines, Shelby Gaines; cast: Maya Hawke (Flannery O’Connor), Laura Linney (Regina), Philip Ettinger (Robert ‘Cal’ Lowell), Rafael Casal (O.E. Parker), Cooper Hoffman (Manley Pointer), Steve Zahn (Tom T. Shiftlet), Vincent D’Onofrio (Sheriff), Alessandro Nivola (John Selby), Christine Dye (Duchess), Willa Fitzgerald (Elizabeth Hardwick), Liam Neeson (Priest); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Joe Goodman, Ryan Hawke, Karri O’Reilly, Cory Pyke; Good Country Pictures; 2023)

“Becomes raggedy as it mixes up real life with fiction.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The talented actor Ethan Hawke (“The Hottest State “/”Blaze”) is director and writer of this disappointing literary biopic, where his  daughter Maya Hawke, in a strained performance, stars as the Southern Gothic styled writer Flannery O’Connor (born in 1925 and died from lupus at 39, in 1964). She was known for writing dark stories about disturbing characters and using heavy-handed religious themes of Catholics like herself who are dealing with moral issues. It co-stars the fine actress Laura Linney, as Flannery’s prim mom Regina. It’s co-written by Shelby Gaines, and is based on 4 interconnecting short stories by Flannery O’Connor that are messy because Hawke blends into the biopic episodes from the author’s writings, thereby he confuses us by having Maya and Linney in multiple roles and thereby the storytelling becomes abstract.

It picks up with Flannery leaving NYC in 1950 to return home to Georgia and try to reconcile her differences with her adamant mom. At 24, Flannery is primed to publish her first novel and get recognition in the literary world, as she struggles being a Roman Catholic, dealing with lupus, having a sexless life and navigating through the routines of life.

Ethan is well-versed in literature and too good a director for the film to feel so out of sorts. But rather than being a profound film as he hoped for, it’s a film that struggles to get inside the author’s head and as a result becomes raggedy as it mixes up real life with fiction.

It played at the Toronto International Film Fest.

A woman in a long coat and a curly haircut stands next to
          a mailbox on a desolate road, reading a letter.