On paper "The Song of Names" - an adaptation of a Norman Lebrecht novel - seems to have all the ingredients in place to make a compelling drama.
It's an interesting story, with two very capable leads - Tim Roth and Clive Owen. Yet, "Names" never really clicks the way it should - resulting in a film that is a well-intentioned misfire.
"Names" begins with a violin prodigy named Dovidl disappearing right before his first public performance.
Flash forward to 35 years later and the prodigy's childhood friend Martin (Tim Roth) is still haunted by what happened to Dovidl. Martin finds a glimmer of hope when judging a young violinist who Martin is convinced performs in a way that could only have been taught by his old friend.
This leads Martin on a quest across Europe, determined to find his friend.
Director François Girard fills in the blanks by flashing back and forth between present day and when the two men first met - as we not only learn how they became friends, but how Dovidl became a child prodigy.
By jumping back and forth "Names" lacks the tension needed for the audience to care about how this mystery is resolved.
Sure some of the individual moments are intriguing, but the parts never add up to a satisfying whole.
Roth is solid as Martin, while Owen does well when he finally arrives in the back half of the film. But their acting is not enough to lift up a script that lacks the dramatic chops needed to make this film work.
Somewhere in the transition from book to film "Song of Names" lost its effectiveness - making it a mundane but rather forgettable experience.