Music Feature

Film Review: Bellflower

by Piers Marchant
Of love, heartbreak and flamethrowers.

Dir. Evan Glodell
Score: 6.4

You know what would be awesome? Working out the pain and suffering of a bad relationship in a film where you get to soak everything in blood and fire. In writer/director/star Evan Glodell's pre-apocalyptic relationship meltdown, everything is set in the present day, somewhere in L.A. The characters are all grounded in a sort of reality, only, through exhaustive vehicular drinking, flamethrower battles and tooling around the city in an amped up muscle car with flames shooting out of its twin exhausts, there never seem to be any authority figures. No police, no crackdowns. The characters are left to their own ethical codes to conduct their business, which becomes especially difficult when the main protagonist suffers a head injury and can't completely disassociate from what's real and what schizo-violent schemes he's imagining.

Best friends Woodrow (Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) moved to L.A. for one reason: They wanted to build a working flamethrower, a la their favorite film, Mad Max, and they thought the city would be a cool place in which to do it. Hard at work drinking, carousing and building a prototype, Woodrow meets Jessie (Jessie Wiseman) one night at a bar (don't ask how) and it's more or less love by the end of their first date, which takes them out to Texas and lasts close to a week. When things go south, though, they go bad in a hurry. When Woodrow finds her cheating on him with her former roommate, the estranged couple engage in a kind of brutal one-upmanship contest, though after Woodrow's injured in a nasty motorcycle accident, it becomes increasingly difficult to separate his violent fantasies from what is actually happening.

Glodell has managed to combine the style of an over-the-top action thriller with the sensibility of a mumblecore romance breakdown, all while leaving the exact meaning of the piece well-open to interpretation. Resisting linear goals and facile storytelling, he obfuscates his material so you're not entirely clear what is and is not Woodrow's reality. It's a neat trick, but because he's based the film in a (reportedly) autobiographical account of a good relationship turned very rotten, the film's characters -- no matter how blood spattered and improbable -- never become device-like excuses to bust out the big artillery.

Fanboys everywhere will have to approach Glodell's debut with admiration and envy: He has found a way to sanction the creation of an actual, working flamethrower and one of the most badass rides since Steve McQueen tore up the streets in Bullit, and use them in a film that breaks rules and boundaries at will. Most improbably, he does all this without ever losing the emotional trajectory of his characters. The flamethrower might be the bait, but this film's real hook is just how twisted and burned up our romances can become when we're not looking.

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