Hank Williams movie keeps you in the dark

What It’s About

A sad tale of woe is “I Saw the Light,” which chronicles country singer-songwriter Hank Williams’ brief but meteoric career and tragic life.

The movie, a rather dreary and lifeless portrait, provides few details about his life before 1944, when Williams (Tom Hiddleston) started making a name for himself on local radio, playing with his band, The Drifting Cowboys.

The years up until his death at age 29, on New Year’s Day 1953, burned bright as his songs zoomed up the charts: “Hey Good Lookin’,” “Your Cheating Heart,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Honky-Tonkin’” and “Lovesick Blues.”

His body of work is undeniable, but his personal life was a hot mess. It’s your familiar tortured artist bio — too much drinking, womanizing and dealing with chronic pain with too many drugs.

His first marriage to aspiring singer, a controlling materialistic Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen), was a trainwreck. Hank Williams Jr. and daughter Jett were born during this union.


Individually, Hiddleston (“Crimson Peak”) and Olsen (“Godzilla”) are fine — with Hiddleston’s remarkable attention to the details obvious. He sings, plays guitar and maintains a Southern accent. The classically trained British actor’s range is noteworthy, from playing F. Scott Fitzgerald in “Midnight in Paris” to Loki in “Thor” and “The Avengers.”

But together, their chemistry is lacking. The relationship is so sour, we really don’t know why they are a couple.

In supporting roles, Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing”) is a mentor, a mover and shaker in the music business, while Tony winner Cherry Jones is Hank’s overbearing mother.

What Works

The story is a country song. Those unfamiliar with the legend have an opportunity to know about Williams’ career, and Hiddleston gives it his all.

What Doesn’t Work

Writer-director Mark Abraham suffocates the story through his cinematic choices, and slow pacing also hinders it.

Why doesn’t this film have more music?

For a movie about someone who was adored by millions for his songs, it fails to capture that electricity in live performances.

‘I Saw the Light’

  • Director: Marc Abraham
  • Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Cherry Jones and Bradley Whitford
  • Rated R (some language and brief sexuality/nudity)
  • 123 minutes