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Soundtrack review: Viva (Stephen Rennicks – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Viva (Stephen Rennicks – 2016)


Directed by Paddy Breathnach, written by Mark O’Halloran and produced by Rob Walpole and Rebecca O’Flanagan for Treasure Entertainment, “Viva” tells the story of Jesus; a young man who does make up for a troupe of drag performers in Havana, but dreams of being a performer. When he finally gets his chance to be on stage, a stranger emerges from the crowd and punches him in the face. The stranger is his father Angel, a former boxer, who has been absent from his life for 15 years. As father and son clash over their opposing expectations of each other, “Viva” becomes a love story as the men struggle to understand one another and become a family again. The score was written by Stephen Rennicks who stunned me last year with his score for “The room”.

“Viva” is a supporting score for the images. I know all film scores should do that but some scores are somewhat generic and work without necessarily being connected with the movie they were written for. I could see the small doses of “Viva” work for a number of movies and scenes. This score is very short (18 minutes long) and divided in cues which are very often under a minute long. There’s not a lot of time to develop themes or creative ideas. Most of the motifs are soulful solo guitar musings that echo different feelings. Some of them I’ve heard before, others are more interesting. I like the sorrow in “Club” and enjoy the anonymous improvisation of “Beat” with its sounds of castanets and what ic an identify as glasses being tapped.

Most of “Viva” though is made of slow and summer evoking guitar strums. I enjoy the music, I like the Latin vibe and you can’t really go wrong with a good guitar player. I liked the moments that reminded me of Gustavo Santaolalla’s scores. There’s a section which includes “Eat together”, “After Javier” and “No food” which gave me nostalgia for scores like “Things we lost in the fire” or “Brokeback mountain”. Stephen Rennicks did something very clever, he put enough emotion in his music to make even a single minute matter. Some cues are dramatic but very honest. The music is not heavy but it’s not light and feel good either; it strikes the right balance between the two and the memory of this score for me will be that of a summer sunset. I am torn between the pleasure of seeing it and the knowledge that it will pass, I’ve seen a lot of them but I can still enjoy the beauty of one.

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 6 / 19

Album excellence: 31%



Eat Together

After Javier


No Food

End Game


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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