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Soundtrack review: A boy called Po (Burt Bacharach and Joseph Bauer – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: A boy called Po (Burt Bacharach and Joseph Bauer – 2017)

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“A boy called Po” is a 2016 drama. When David Wilson’s young wife falls victim to cancer, he is left a single working dad with the sole responsibility of caring for his sixth grade son with autism. Patrick, who prefers to be called ‘Po,’ is a gifted but challenged child who was very close to his mother and unable to communicate his own sense of loss. As father and son struggle to deal with life after mom, they each begin to withdraw into their own worlds. David into the high pressure job he’s close to losing and Po drifting away from the school where he’s bullied into his magical fantasy world, the Land of Color, where he’s just a typical carefree boy with a rich cast of other worldly companions. The score was written by Burt Bacharah and Joseph Bauer.

Burt Bacharach is a musical legend with 3 Academy Awards and lots of other recognitions and I know some of memorable hits like “Rain drops keep falling on my head” and this is the first time I am listening to a full score written by him. The score opens with “Amelia says goodbye”, a tender and melancholic solo piano theme that makes me feel both sad and smitten in the same time. This is the piano sound that’s graced our ears for decades courtesy of composers like him or the Newman brothers. In “The pirate” the piano gets livelier but still melancholic and I imagine the fantasy world where a child might find refuge. I missed hearing a classic solo piano score like this one, quietly playing honest emotions. Burt Bacharach doesn’t need more than this magnificent instrument to charm me and make me care.

Joseph Bauer comes with the dreamy, more ambient music. He writes the music for Po’s fantasy place and “The land of color” is a charming fairly tale cue with chimes and a very pleasant atmospheric texture. The two styles, the piano and the ambient, compliment each other and since I am a big fan of both I am very pleased with this score. The piano represents the grey and hard real life while the ambient is the sanctuary of the secret world. The pleasant real life moments are beautifully expressed by more playful piano motifs, like in “Family time”.

It’s not often that we get a solo piano score where everything the story has, and it’s a difficult story that hits a lot of people close to home, is coloured through subtle variations in tone by this single instrument. Then the Joseph Bauer ambient parts that also include the piano feel like the most natural reflective compliment to the piano themes. I just applaud the way this score is constructed and how all the pieces fit together. For me the reflective ambient mood is about the most comfortable and pleasant musical place to be in and I just drift away as cues like “Lost” play on my ears. Joseph Bauer is definitely a name I should keep on my radar from now on.

“Po” or “A boy called Po” is a very beautiful and intimate composition that makes me feel through music the withdrawal and loneliness of the main characters. The piano of Burt Bacharach drives the music through mental and soulful paths while the quieter ambient compositions of Joseph Bauer paint a dream land that’s never permanent. Once the music is over I am left with a feeling of emptiness and sadness and feeling something after the album is over this is the mark of a very good score.

Cue rating: 93 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 26 / 39

Album excellence: 69%

Highlights:
The Pirate
Nurses Office
The Land of Color (Joseph Bauer)
Family Time
Goodbye Dad
Detached (Joseph Bauer)
Lost (Joseph Bauer)
Through the Door (Joseph Bauer)
Another World (Joseph Bauer)
Dad Packing
Airport Kiss
Rainbow on the Wall
Sherwood Forest
Supermarket Love
Dancing with Your Shadow

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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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