Musical Relationships

Greetings from Tim Buckley

A promising young musician visits New York for a week to headline a tribute concert. He bonds with a young woman interning at the performance space, and they run around the city being chatty, artistic, and physically beautiful together. These would be the makings of a light and romantic film, except that the young man portrayed is musician Jeff Buckley in his early twenties and the concert he's been called for honors his father, prolific and renowned musician Tim Buckley, who breezed away from Jeff's mother before Jeff was born and died at age 28 without knowing his first child.

Greetings from Tim Buckley takes place in 1991. Tim Buckley is a beloved figure with a legacy; Jeff has musical gifts and a physical resemblance to his dad, but he has not yet established his own career. Nor does he think highly of his father: to him, Tim Buckley's biggest legacy is one of betrayal and disappointment.  

There's not much plot here; rather, the viewer travels along with Jeff Buckley (sensitively and skillfully portrayed by Penn Badgley of Gossip Girl -- who, as it turns out, can sing) as he explores New York City and his own emotions. He's accompanied by fans and former band mates of his father; but he's most able to relax and speak his heart -- by turns joyful, bitter, wry, and simply pained -- with intern Allie (charming and charismatic Imogen Poots). Story arc is not meant to be the focus; rather, director  Dan Algrant and co-writers David Brendel and Emma Sheanshang give us a thoughtfully wandering study based on an actual week in the life of a yearning young man.

It would have been great to see the Poots character more fully written -- surely there would be a lot more to her than a role as Jeff Buckley's new crush and sounding board. And there's no escaping the tragic mist around the film -- one wishes all the best for Jeff's future as he wows the crowd with his father's music at the concert but then walks back to his hotel alone; and it hurts to know that his life was cut short when he drowned in 1997 at age 30, just before he was to record his second full-length album. Still, fans and newcomers to the work of either Buckley will both be moved by the purity of heart, not to mention the beautiful music, to be found here. - Pamela Grossman

Ms. Grossman is a Brooklyn-based writer. Her work has been published in Ms., Salon.com, The Village Voice, and Filmmaker magazine, among other outlets, and she is a regular contributor to Women's Enews.

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