Writer/director Evan Glodell’s feature film debut blindsided me like a sucker punch to the solar plexus. Bellflower knocked the wind right out of me, leaving me glued to my seat, gasping for air, heart pounding, adrenaline pumping, mind reeling in attempt to process what exactly I just experienced.
A refreshing testament to the true DIY spirit of independent film, Bellflower signals the arrival of a filmmaker to be on the lookout for. When a movie begins with a quote from The Road Warrior‘s Lord Humungus, it’s easy to assume you know what you’re in for. Don’t.
Bellflower is a surreal experience. The story follows best friends Woodrow (Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson), two twentysomethings obsessed with Mad Max and anxiously awaiting the apocalypse, seeing it as a chance for their own gang, Mother Medusa, to rule over the dystopian wasteland. They spend all of their free time working on flame-throwers and mean muscle cars. When Woodrow falls in love with Milly (Jessie Wiseman) his already tenuous take on reality is tested by their tempestuous relationship. He gets it bad . . . and that ain’t good . . . for anyone. The fallout envelopes everyone around them in a shocking maelstrom of love, hate, betrayal, and violence.
The movie starts off like an innocuous indie dramedy about quirky quarterlifers. Sure, Woodrow and Aiden are building a flamethrower, but they seem harmless enough. And as we stumble through the awkward beginnings, getting to know everyone, Bellflower seems like it might be just another mumblecore movie about eccentric white kids with too much time to kill. But Glodell knows exactly what he’s doing, planting us firmly in this naturalistic world of mundane minutiae so that when the shit finally hits the fan it is all the more jarring. If you know me at all, you know how much I like my movies chock full o’ tension, and Bellflower delivers. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that there are moments in this film that had my heart pounding so hard I thought I might have a coronary.
The acting isn’t always the strongest, in the beginning there are some stilted moments. But the cast find their way, and all of the crucial moments ring true. The visuals are stunning, slowly deteriorating to offer a vision of L.A. akin to a faded picture-postcard from Hell. Harsh. Gritty. Unforgiving.
Bellflower is a bizarre look at love and manhood in an ambiguous modern age. Glodell delivers an incendiary examination of some of the ridiculously misogynistic ideas about what a man is “supposed to be.” It’s a surprisingly complex film that does not disappoint. Bellflower is a gut-wrenching baptism by fire introduction to a talented new filmmaker, and I am eager to see Glodell’s next offering.