Directed by Evan Glodell
Distributed by Oscilloscope Films
If there’s one thing that divorce has taught this writer, it is that love can be a cataclysmic event when the proverbial shit hits the fan, which is why I think Evan Glodell’s feature film Bellflower has continued to resonate with me ever since I screened the movie back in March during the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin. The film’s exploration of the destructive nature of young love is by far one of the most compelling films I’ve seen this year and demonstrates that Glodell is an incredible filmmaking talent on the rise.
Bellflower starts a bit in reverse- we see random acts of violence, some fire, some blood and a whole lot of regret, which is an indication from the start that writer/director/actor Glodell isn’t going the young puppy love route with his feature film debut- the love story that’s about to unfold for us is as delicate as Godzilla tap dancing his way through the streets of New York. Bad things are going to happen and people will get hurt, but watching the destructive nature of everyone in the film is part of the devastating beauty of Bellflower.
In the film we meet life-long friends Woodrow (Glodell) and Aiden (Dawson), who have been obsessed with the world of Mad Max and Lord Humungous ever since they saw the films as children. The Midwesterners move to California in hopes of building badass cars and flamethrowers for their fictional post-apocalyptic gang “Mother Medusa”, but the progress with plans for their gang (and their relationship in general) is halted when Woodrow meets the free-spirited Milly (Wiseman) at a cricket eating competition.
Woodrow and Milly are both instantly drawn to each other, and after the pair’s bug-eating showdown, they make plans to meet up the next day. But what starts off as a slightly awkward date turns into a road trip for the pair that takes them from California to Texas in search of bad roadside diner food. That may sound almost too cutesy for words, but it’s Glodell’s and Wiseman’s naturalistic performances that completely sell their chemistry together, making them completely likable and compelling to watch even though you know there’s no fairytale ending for these two. After all, Milly warns the already smitten Woodrow on that first date that she will hurt him regardless of what he thinks will happen between them, a haunting indication of the events to come in Bellflower.
When Milly eventually betrays Woodrow’s confidence, their relationship disintegrates almost immediately into a hateful downward spiral that becomes somewhat of a “tinkling contest” between the couple and their respective groups of friends to see which side could hurt the other more as the battle lines are drawn between the two young lovers. Things escalate quickly into a series of extreme acts of revenge and violence that remind audiences there is still a startling and brutal side of love lurking even when everything is aces in the beginning. The movie itself shifts tonally as well, which is reflective of Woodrow’s pain and disorientation in the wake of his relationship gone bad.
It would do Bellflower a great injustice to talk about the third act and how the film ultimately resolves itself, but it’s a powerful exploration of loss, regret and the (good and bad) power of love. There have been a lot of movies about lost love or love gone wrong throughout the years, but I’ve yet to see one as raw and fearless as Bellflower in ages. Glodell’s writing is strong, his poise as a storyteller is understated and for a feature film debut, he’s made a remarkable statement in the world of independent filmmaking. Bellflower is ballsy, unflinching and an absolutely unforgettable experience; and I can’t wait to see what Glodell does next as a filmmaker.
4 out of 5