The film was made by Oscilloscope Laboratories, and this is the fifth film of theirs I've seen. I've yet to be disappointed by them. This is a real labor of love, and it shows. Evan Glodell not only wrote, directed, and stars, but he also designed and built the camera that was used, as well as the car and the flame thrower, both of which were totally functional.
What we essentially get is a kitchen sink melodrama done as an edgy indie with apocalyptic tones. I liked that. It's not an uplifting film, but if you want something that's dark, gritty, and unique, then this is a film for you.
The cinematography and editing are pretty good, there's an intense mood and atmosphere, and even a subtle bit of humor. I applaud the actors greatly, especially Jessie Wiseman who isn't a typical studio film beauty, despite the fact that she is gorgeous.
The broad plot isn't the most original, but it's done in a neat way, so I can forgive it. If you want to see something a little out there, then look this one up.
After the arrival of a certain key plot development (out of the blue) that sends the film down a dark and increasingly frustrating spiral, the characters we have gotten to know have disappeared and start acting out in a manner foreign to their personalities! In the film's favor, there's a bleak tonal shift and intensity attributed to not knowing where the narrative will venture next, and it works... but even that dissipates as the film sort of stalls after an extended sequence that's rendered useless in it's conclusion.
By the end of the picture I was at a crossroads. I liked so much of the film (it's initial half and performances specifically: the standout being Glodell himself)... but at it's full length it just didn't feel cohesive and certainly didn't do it's characters and bold filmmaking justice.
Upon looking back at "Bellflower," the sudden and violent shift of it's later scenes became even harder to swallow.
Two friends spend all their free time building flame-throwers and weapons of mass destruction in hopes that a global apocalypse will occur and clear the runway for their imaginary gang "Mother Medusa".
When David Fincher was preparing to shoot Fight Club, he briefly considered dispensing with stars and a big budget to shoot the film guerrilla style on digital video. Had he gone that route, the results would have been something along the lines of Bellflower, an audacious, flame- spewing, spit in the face of everything stale and conventional about modern cinema. Shot on a nothing budget using a camera that director/writer/star Evan Glodell built from odds and ends, Bellflower is a stark critique of characters lost and struggling in the sun soaked wastelands of Southern California.
To go into detail would certainly ruin the joy of discovery this brutal movie has to offer. Suffice to say it is a love story like no other, chock full of drunken brawls, flame- throwers, and a muscle car named Medusa (also built from scratch by Glodell). Personally, I think this is one of the most important movies that's come out in recent memory. With a raw, ugly beauty reminiscent of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the sparse immediacy of films like Two Lane Blacktop, and David Lynch's ability to make the banal nightmarish and horrifying, Bellflower incinerates the very notion of narrative filmmaking, redefining it on its own terms. If indie filmmaking is meant to push the envelope, this movie leaves that envelope charred and twisting in the wind.
This doesn't mean the film is perfect. It does have some substantial weaknesses. After a while, the tension in the story starts to seem fabricated. Rather than organically emerging out of the characters' lives, it seems at times to be phony, more of a plot device than anything else.
But Glodell gets very close to a major artistic achievement here. For one's first film to be this good, that's a sign that one is immensely talented. I am thrilled at the idea of watching Glodell grow as a filmmaker in the decade ahead.
I'm equally excited about the future of cinematographer Joel Hodge. Over and over, the photography in "Bellflower" took my breath away. Hodge is a genius with the camera.
A big thank you to the distributor Oscilloscope for giving this unique gem a chance to be seen by audiences. What would we do without companies like Oscilloscope?
"Bellflower" readily disproves the old romantic axiom to find a woman who will eat crickets, and love will follow. It does for a while but as shown in the prologue, problems arise. At least, Milly warned Woodrow. But even early on, he shows a propensity for violence, as neither he nor Aiden are the kind of sensitive new age guys who don't know who play in the Seattle Kingdome. And as a filmmaker, Evan Glodell is smarter than to glorify their antics. He also succeeds in getting their apocalyptic fantasies right but not in the details of the reality, like what they do for money or even what year this is supposed to be, with its outdated cultural references and technology. And then there is the distressing reinforcement of the stereotype that all male geeks hate women.