Film reviews

Black Flowers – SCI-FI LONDON Film Festival

Black Flowers is the new film from writer/director Martin Gooch (The Gatehouse, The Search for Simon) and it’s something of a mixed bag. There are audio issues, the acting is far from stellar, CGI blood flows freely (seriously – can nobody afford corn syrup and food colouring anymore?), and the plot is best described as serviceable. That said, the story moves along briskly, it’s genuinely nice to see one of these post-apocalyptic movies featuring a female protagonist (who is less Furiosa and more mom-next-door), and some scenes are executed really well.

The film opens with a family frolicking in the sea, everything is lovely, the sun is shining and then suddenly…. boom. Nuclear war. Jumping forward in time it becomes clear that the world has changed forever (also, someone blew up the moon: I have so many questions), and now people must fight to survive in this new world of raiders, cannibals, radiation and strange, mutated black flowers that can both kill and heal.

The story follows our family from the opening as they try to survive in this new world: Kate (Krista DeMille), her daughter Suzy (Andrea Sweeney), and husband Sam (Ron Roggé) who was injured in the opening scuffle with the raiders in the forest. Along the way they encounter Joe (Jesús Lloveras) who possesses a map he claims shows the way to a secret bunker filled with supplies that can offer them all sanctuary.

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The problems with this film become obvious very quickly, when the opening scene following the advent of war features lots of people wearing dark clothes running around a dark forest in the middle of a particularly dark night. There is no way to tell what’s going on or who the heroes or villains are. The second problem is the audio mix is often very, very bad. Kate’s early dialogue in particular sounds constantly muffled and indistinct, the characters frequently chattering away while the sound recordist was perhaps in the bathroom.

A lot of the dialogue sounds like it was recorded post-production and there are a few times it becomes glaringly obvious. See the gas-mask scene in particular: no way do people with masks on sound that clear. In the grand scheme of things, though, it’s a minor gripe. The audio is just SO clear it takes you out of the moment, the characters sounding like they’re standing next to each other in their living room, not trekking in the middle of nowhere through a cloud of dangerous chemicals.

Complaints aside, there are moments that do work, flashes of the surreal that suddenly invade this otherwise mundane setting. The strange cult and their Icon climbing the mountain to be closer to god, the man on horseback seemingly hunting a child, the strange trio sitting by the river, the revelers partying the world away, lost in their own hedonism and embracing the end of the world as an excuse for one last party to end all parties. There’s something wonderfully dreamlike about these encounters. Kate herself is an impressively driven lead character, surviving encounters with raiders and visions of madmen as she seeks a place of safety for her daughter.

Black Flowers is an uneven film but an entertaining one. It’s many things, but luckily it is never boring. If you are a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre a la The Road/Book of Eli/Mad Max then this is worth a look.

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