“Bellflower” is a not-so-typical coming of age film based in southern California. It focuses on a socially awkward young adult named Woodrow, played by Evan Glodell, and his outgoing best friend Aiden, played by Tyler Dawson, as they embark into adulthood. They spend their free time building a flamethrower and a car that looks like something out of a Mad Max movie so they can rule the post-apocalyptic world with their fictional gang “Mother Medusa.” Their plans come to a halt when Woodrow meets the charming and charismatic Milly, played by Jessie Wiseman, and falls in love. Woodrow and Aiden soon become members of Milly’s circle of friends and embark on a journey that will forever change both of their lives. Due to the frantic pace and odd cut scenes, the story is initially difficult to make out. After a while, however, the scene changes and little blurbs of dialogue piece together a magnificent plot. Two guys, who are preparing to be the rulers of post-apocalyptic Earth, are driven to the edge of their sanity through lies, drugs, sex, and violence. “Bellflower” captivates the audience immediately, showing scenes in reverse order from the end of the film. Some of the visuals seen are a giant burst of flame, a ring of fire, and a man in very bloody white shirt. Intensity oozes from the screen, but things start at a slow pace. We get a glimpse into Woodrow and Aiden’s newfound life away from their home in Wisconsin. Woodrow is shy and probably insecure, whereas Aiden is flamboyant and outgoing. The camera work gets shaky for the next few scenes and the film seems to jump around too much before it settles back with Aiden and Woodrow. The movie is split into sections with their own title. It is as if the movie is actually several different stories connected by one overlying plot.
The titles of each section hint at what will be going on and foreshadow coming plot twists. Throughout the movie there are numerous references, although subtle, to what will happen and what has happened. This makes each scene important and keeps the audience paying attention and wanting more. Each scene in “Bellflower” is visually perfect. The grime and nitty-gritty feeling is expressed through both subtle and extreme settings found throughout the film. Everything has a purpose in every scene and every scene impacts the next. There are no useless moments in this movie. The camera work is beautiful, even though it was on a handheld camera, it brings the movie down to a personal level. The violence this movie is based on is on display in a wonderful fashion from when the main characters are introduced until the twist ending. One of the few problems with the movie is its extreme vagueness and sub-par acting. Granted, I wasn’t expecting Oscar-winning performances, but Glodell’s portrayal of an awkward young adult left much to be desired. He made Woodrow too unpredictable and the performance made his character difficult to read. If that was the intention, I missed it because when Woodrow should be stoic and depressed, he still came off as the socially awkward young adult he was at the beginning. Dawson and Wiseman, playing Aiden and Milly respectively, give amazing performances, however, and the way their characters related to friends we all have added a new perspective to the story itself. As for the movie’s ambiguity, it was probably intentional.
This movie is one of the most mysterious and twisting movies I have ever seen. The way it uses previous scenes twice or even three times just to add a new dimension to the story is brilliant, but can get bit confusing, especially towards the end. The message, however, is as clear as day. The twisted ending is a key into finding this movie isn’t about two best friends trying to make their way in the world, but rather a story about how, at the end of the day, would you give up the one thing you care about? The movie isn’t black and white, it is far from it, and I was left to infer what was going on and why. The plot twists and turns almost out of control but catches itself just in time. Due to the amount of things going on simultaneously in the film, it is very hard to understand completely, even when it’s over. You may need to see it two or more times to fully understand the meaning of the movie or see it with other people to discuss it and understand it better. On a scale of one to ten, I would give this Sundance Film Festival selection an eight. It is an amazing movie with an amazing message. The plot is virtually perfect and the entire movie is as entertaining as it is perplexing.
Sean Banks can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org