You Sing Loud, I Sing Louder Review: Ewan McGregor Tackles Father-Daughter Issues With Real-Life Daughter

Being a girl dad has its problems, especially when your daughter thinks you’re a prick. As “I Sing Loud, You Sing Louder” begins, a teenage girl shoots a jaundiced look at her father who is driving her somewhere in the desolate West. She can’t hear him because her headphones are blaring “I’m Yer Dad,” a not even remotely subtle noise pop song by Grlwood that includes the lyric, “Feed me food while I watch sports / In my man cave made for sports / Whores in my porn, porn in my sports … ’Cause I’m your dad.”

Dad studies her without comprehension. She is his daughter, but she is an undiscovered country to him. He vacated his fatherly duties during his booze years, and now he must deal with an estranged beautiful daughter whose heart stopped beating last night during an overdose. He pulls his pickup to the side of the road so she can pee, but she bolts, sprinting into the desert before he eventually catches her. He asks here where she was going with nothing but an endless moonscape for miles. She admits she didn’t have a plan. He looks at her and calls her by a childhood nickname.

“I could never keep up with you, Turbo.”

Trying to catch up with each other is at the crux of “You Sing Loud, I Sing Louder,” a quiet film­ — well, after the first four minutes — starring Ewan McGregor as an alcoholic dad who lost touch with his little girl when his drinking took over. That was before he went to AA, found a new wife and had a little boy. The daughter, played by Ewan’s actual daughter Clara McGregor, is just like her dad in one respect: She is a junkie. The man who set her adrift is now charged with saving her life.

It’s instructive that Clara McGregor shares story credit on Ruby Caster’s screenplay. Both McGregors have battled addiction issues in real life. Ewan divorced his first wife (the mother of Clara and her three siblings) and married Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 2018. He now has a two-year-old son from his second marriage. Onscreen, the McGregors have a visceral connection courtesy of either fine acting or bonafide unresolved issues. Director Emma Westenberg largely stays out of the way, allowing their pain to fill the space. A joyous singalong to a Leona Lewis song that daughter and father belted out in happier times is interrupted by a call from his new wife, who he calls “darling,” and loving talks with “my wee little man” about bedtime books. These are things his first daughter never experienced, and you see the pain and resentment fill Clara McGregor’s enormous eyes.

Unfortunately, simple anger and longing is not enough to drive a 102-minute film. Westenberg is hampered by a landscape that has now become a cliché in indie film. Father and daughter travel on a two-lane Route 66-type road which is cinematically interesting but makes little logical sense because they are purportedly on a 14-hour road trip to somewhere and on a deadline. Ostensibly, the trip is from Southern California to New Mexico but it suspiciously looks like they start in New Mexico and do a series of loops through the Land of Enchantment who helped provide funding for the film.

As with any road movie, the two meet a series of oddballs in their travels that are supposed to accentuate their conflict: a loud tow-truck driver (Kim Zimmer), a clown (Jake Weary) with amorous intentions and a prostitute (Vera Bulder) with a heart of gold and glitter up her sleeve. None resonate. The middle passage heaves and wanders a bit —there are flashback scenes to long ago happy and sad episodes — and it is not quite clear what the stakes are. 

After an hour, it reignites. The daughter talks with her dad’s new wife and realizes her father is taking her to rehab. She runs into the night and meets a dissolute couple with dark intentions. McGregor’s panicked search for his daughter in the desert dark conjures up George C. Scott in Paul Schrader’s ”Hardcore.” In a moment, Clare goes from the joy of getting high to putting herself in a position where surviving the night is in doubt. The moment when the dad gets the call telling him whether his daughter is dead or alive will rip the heart out of any parent with a troubled child.

By this point, Turbo realizes she can now trust her father. And that is all a child can ask from a parent. 

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