The unexpectedly powerful two last chapters of this extremely original take about two friends that never face their upcoming adulthood phase through the construction of flamethrowers, mass destruction weapons and an apocalyptic flame-throwing Mad-Max-inspired black car, awaiting for the end of the world to come soon while making an aggressive statement to anybody that may stumble upon them, have been slowly growing on me. It is the last two chapters that kept pushing the rating up with their 20-minute length. They clarify the existentialist statements of the whole film, and I find them deep just as I find them disturbing.
With noticeable screenwriting issues and unprofessional performances that distract the viewer from an effective punch in the face. The whole menacing. apocalyptic tone with its seldom eye-hurting but always effective yellow illumination mirrors Miike's third insallment of his Dead or Alive trilogy, but unlike Miike's failure, gets its tone right and is effective enough to be memorable. It seems that not only regular viewers, but also cinema connoiseurs are having serious trouble "buying" this film, let alone digesting it. I had a different experience. The originality of the film shines and, despite some formulaic moments, comes as completely unpredictable. It throws youthful irrationality to the whole formula instead of being an average comedy/action Hollywood flick with anarchic and "carefree" young rebels that we do not care about, killing people and making sexual jokes along the way. No, here, reality challenges their minds and that's what unleashes disorder in their lives. What a clever move!
Woodrow and his childhood friend move from Wisconsin to California to start their adult lives. We 're not sure how they make money or what, if anything, they do when they're not building flamethrowers, fantasizing about starting a gang, and wheeling around in muscle cars. But when Woodrow meets and falls for Milly, we glimpse his affability and promise. Here, Bellflower briefly morphs into a well-orchestrated road movie, treating us to a few lighthearted moments. There is a machine art dynamic to the road sequence . . . with the dark origins of the film scrubbing away most traces of humanity such that when we see Woodrow finding love, we feel doubly uplifted. But the warmth is short-lived, as the relationship comes apart, magma seeping from its cracks. Woodrow's mind begins to burn, and with it, everything around him.
Bellflower manages to weave together a narrative that cares about diverse and fundamental concepts -- love, betrayal, primal rage, and vulnerability -- without feeling pretentious or resorting to musical or cinematic shortcuts. It is accessible without being simplistic, and palatable without going down too easy.
It's not without problems. The story is not terribly imaginative, and there are moments when you wish for the characters to get over themselves, get jobs, and basically grow up. But Glodell's skillful and personal delivery is key to offsetting these weaknesses. The result is gritty and captivating.
The film hits its high note when things spin out of control. Woodrow's grip on reality loosens as he struggles to discern his feelings . . . the effect is reminiscent of the 2001 Cameron Crowe piece Vanilla Sky, but in no way as ultimately uplifting. Woodrow responds to his hurt by wishing for more . . . he wants destruction to govern his life the way it has governed his gearhead fantasies. Glodell has a gift here of simmering the story and occasionally letting it boil over without spilling completely. The resulting tension really hooks the audience, even if it's not always clear exactly what is unfolding.
Bellflower is unsettling. It provides us with a clear starting point, but thereafter continually cedes clarity as Woodrow unravels. It will, at times, annoy with its unwillingness to clearly mark what is real and what isn't . . . but it will also grip and fascinate. It's certainly worth the time investment, and will continue to resonate long after the credits roll. This is a hell of a first effort from Evan Glodell, and almost certainly not the last time we will hear from him.