Review - BELLFLOWER Brings the Emotional Dynamite

Festivals Editor; Los Angeles, California (@RylandAldrich)
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Review - BELLFLOWER Brings the Emotional Dynamite

It isn't the apocalypse - it's just Camarillo.

From the marketing materials being used for Evan Glodell's indie debut Bellflower, you'd be excused for believing his film involved some sort of cataclysmic end of humanity. In fact, the events that arise during our involvement in the life of main character Woodrow (played by Glodell) are far less dire to the rest of the human race than the end of days. However they do spell an emotional apocalypse for Woodrow and his merry band of party animal nihilists that threatens to tear their entire world to the ground. This thrill ride turns out to be far more compelling than any typical world ending actioner and leaves you reeling from experience long after walking out of the theater.

Woodrow's journey begins when he and best pal Aiden (Tyler Dawson) meet a new crew of girls led by Milly (Jessie Wiseman) at a local saloon. Woodrow is immediately taken by Milly's I'm-more-punk-than-you disposition (she is) and an intense romance quickly blossoms. What's important is that Woodrow ignores Milly's premonitions of an inevitably fucked up conclusion to their involvement. As the prescribed pile-up draws near, Woodrow's wherewithal to deal with such a disaster become all the less existent.

Woodrow and Aiden have ostensibly come to Southern California to follow some sort of desire for success - but they spend far more time just screwing around with homemade weaponry and drinking themselves into a stupor. While some have pointed to the pair's wayward lifestyle as unrealistic, I found just the opposite to be true. This is not your case of the likable protagonist who simply must defeat a few inner demons to unlock the hidden entrepreneur/artist/Olympic swimmer who always existed within. These are real people, just like the ones you went to high school with, living their lives from party to party - trying to do right between evenings of drinking far too much whiskey. Okay, so these characters are far from ordinary, but they are even further from cliché - and that's what makes the story a success.

Much attention has been paid to Glodell's filmmaking story since Bellflower exploded onto the scene at Sundance last January. Glodell wrote, directed, edited, stars and even built the cameras responsible for the film's unique look. All of this adds up to one of the most impressive indie debuts in years. Glodell deserves all the credit for not letting anything, not even too much whiskey, stand in the way of making this movie happen - and it will be fascinating to see what this guy pulls out next.

Yes the film is rough around the edges. The material can be disturbing and other than Rebekah Brandes's particularly impressive performance as the vulnerable rebound-ready Courtney, the actors' lack of experience is glaring. But as the months have passed since first seeing this film, I have been continually surprised by how often I've found myself thinking about it - a sentiment echoed by colleague after colleague. Glodell has turned out something very special; a film that could potentially be the most engaging independent film of the year.

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