The half star you see at the top of this review is on the positive side of a rating because of Tom Hiddleston's charm alone. I Saw the Light, is a sluggish movie, about the life of country star Hank Williams, but when the actor from England shows off his pearly smile, it's succeeds at portraying a man who was the biggest country musician of his time. I'm not sure, outside of die-hard country music lovers, who I would recommend this movie for, but writer/director Marc Abraham is not interested in making this bio-pic pretty. Instead, he tells a story about the life of Williams and hopes we see why his music has been held in such high regard.  

I Saw the Light

The first shot is a telling beginning for how Williams lived his life, up on the stage with the spotlight on him, singing a lonesome a cappella tune, clearly the most talented person in the room, and captivating his audience. And that may be just Hiddleston showing off again. The Thor and Avengers movie star is by far the most impressive thing about the film. He sings all the songs on his own, yodeling to perfection in a performance of “Lovesick Blues”. He also adapts flawlessly to the distinct Alabama accent and carries himself on stage with the charisma that Hank had to catch the eyes of countless ladies. The films leading lady is Audrey Williams, played by Elizabeth Olsen, whose performance holds her own, toe-to-toe with Hiddleston. She is asked to spend most of her time on the side of Hank, singing a bit off key, arguing, and wishing her man could stay true to her. Outside the two, there is not much more to the cast other than Hank's always present, overbearing mother (Cherry Jones) and his supportive manager Fred Rose (Bradley Whitford).

A majority of I Saw the Light is morose and bleak. Hank was known as the first rock star of country music. Passing away from heart failure at the way-too young age of 29, he lived life fast, tortured with an addiction to pain pills, alcohol, and women. Yet, the movie cannot seem to dig deeper below these issues. It is shot with an eloquent cinematography by Dante Spinotti. He captures Williams in many “God Country” settings, as Abraham's film gives a straight forward chronicle of these troubles in different iterations. Whether Hank is arriving drunk and late for his morning radio show, or later in a performance at a small town fair revealing his intriguing alter ego Luke the Drifter, we are never given much reason to understand his appeal, that is, until he steps on stage and belts out tunes such as “Honky Tonkin'” and “Why Don't You Love Me.” That is where the Hank Williams star power lies, or is it Hiddleston's star power?

There is an intriguing movie wrapped in the depressing tone that overshadows I Saw the Light. It ultimately seems that Hank Williams was someone whose life was as difficult to pin down as it was to make a movie about him. I do commend Abraham and Hiddleston's efforts to make a movie without sugar coating the truth. Williams lyrics highlighted a lot of the demons he was fighting, his womanizing was reckless, and his drinking was his demise. I just wish there was a bit more light shining on a career that ended way too soon. One thing is for sure though, that Tom Hiddleston is one hell of an actor.


Written by: Leo Brady