Bellflower is if nothing else honest by design, but a work through which the introspective tangents of its lead Woodrow’s (Evan Glodell, who also wrote and directed the film) psyche affords an emotional veraciousness that’s just too candid of its sociocultural naivety. To be sure, Glodell’s project is one of a purportedly unique constitution, to which it somewhat succeeds, but its rote depictions of counter-culture proclivities – which, apparently, means collectively eschewing even the idea of sobriety, as characters spend nary a scene without a beer or bowl in hand – proletariat-tinted contemporary ennui, and the kind of rhetorical posturing that pervades the minds of only those masculinely dysmorphic. (Phrases like, “Propane is for pussies,” and “You should bone her,” are said without subtlety of intention within the film’s first fifteen minutes, tinging the picture’s complexion as overtly guileless.) In its expositionally-laden first act, the narrative, aside from portending tragedy by rewinding through macabre tableaus of yet-to-come chaos, presents the universe of Bellflower as one defined by over-exposure – everything from the testosterone-centric mentalities of its principals to the bolstered, bleeding chromaticism of its acid-washed aesthetic points to an aggressive, reckless even, sense of unrestraint.
…everything from the testosterone-centric mentalities of its principals to the bolstered, bleeding chromaticism of its acid-washed aesthetic points to an aggressive, reckless even, sense of unrestraint.
And yet, because the film carries a somewhat ironic stance on traditional maturational rhythms, at least some of this puerile pageantry is warranted. While the extent of the inspiration is unclear, Glodell’s character Woodrow comes clearly equipped with autobiographical baggage, and his romantic inelegance and insecurity alike bring with them an appealing sense of self-disclosed humanity. To experience his nervous echolalia, which causes him to incessantly sum up the quiet moments of life that crystallize affectionate by saying, “This is nice,” is to see that he understands, in part, his own limits with emotional openness. In this, some of his – hell, let’s call it what it is – misogynist projections can be seen as indicative of self-doubt, but I have my doubts of my own – namely with his authorial intent.
Bellflower is a film that tellingly elides cultural examination; its tonal fulcrum stems from the environment that Glodell creates, a world that comes classified by quotidian monotony and stiltedly sexist, heternormative bearings. (That Woodrow falls for his future girlfriend, Milly (Jessie Wisemann), after losing to her in a cricket-eating contest finely exhibits an instance of degenderization, one that unfortunately dissolves into the all-too routine pairings up of both the twosome and their friends that shortly follows.) For a work that aptly discloses its principal’s personal uncertainty, Glodell’s efforts as a provocateur appear equally confused with how he’s to hone his vision within an apropos social fabric. The female characters of the film are worse than ciphers: They’re apathetic cutouts of the friendly and romantic varieties. Of course, this brand of chauvinism can be seen as something that’s been mythologically lifted from the Mad Max, a film the characters, male anyway, have an unhealthy affinity for. To me, however, this points to subterfuge. Bellflower translucently delineates between reality and fantasy, with personally apocalyptic and interpersonally violent flourish used to elucidate Woodrow’s inner collapse. These are visions of moral barrenness, images over which Glodell can indulge his character’s jejune dispositions without worrying of its implications within larger arenas. To be sure, Bellflower is mostly an extolment of the subjective, as it cycles between the obviously selective and/or augmented annals of Woodrow’s memory. But because it never establishes a baseline level of reality, any commentary concerning the ambiguity of anamnesis is diluted if not entirely forfeited.
…because it never establishes a baseline level of reality, any commentary concerning the ambiguity of anamnesis is diluted if not entirely forfeited.
So clearly, Bellflower isn’t a work that exists within a familiar – or perhaps more appropriate, convincing – framework of America, and yet it still owes quite a bit to the stereotypically unidimensional ways in which Californians and mid-westerners are classified. Woodrow and his best friend Aiden (Tyler Dawson) hail from Wisconsin, and Glodell liberally employs myriad geo-cultural ascriptions as a way to point out how upbringing acts as a propellant for priority. Having lived in a less socially immediate environ, the two are somewhat marred by their difficulty in assimilating local custom. Instead of adapting they drift through life allusively, as per the film’s implacable exploration regarding their preparation for an institutional cataclysm. Woodrow and Aiden’s main problem is how, like many of their generation, they behave more than a little intransigently to that what’s relevant given the epoch, instead favoring projections of prophetic oblivion – their development of dystopian war machines (flame throwers, gadget cars) does aptly accord the notion that twentysomethings tend to substitute reality for an existence of pop-culture saturation. The final result, nevertheless, is far too specious in its thematic application; its parallels, espoused by way of a banal and frankly childish closing monologue, trade insight for effect by forgoing any examination of the way its principals abjure commitment.
[notification type=”star”]46/100 ~ BAD. Bellflower is far too specious in its thematic application; its parallels, espoused by way of a banal and frankly childish closing monologue, trade insight for effect by forgoing any examination of the way its principals abjure commitment.[/notification]