Evan Glodell wrote, directed, produced, edited and starred in this directorial debut feature film as well as building his own camera using pieces of vintage cameras to shoot the film. Bellflower has a very distinctive look, gritty, dirty, overexposed, soft focus shots depict the California location, the title referring to an avenue that most of the story centres around. We see barren graffiti covered wastelands and desolate streets which creates a strange atmosphere, the effects created by the camera giving the film a dreamlike surreal quality.
The opening of the film sees later on events played out quickly in reverse so immediately we know that it all goes wrong. It is a film very much of two separate halves. The first a traditional boy meets girl, goes on a quirky date and falls in love scenario. Woodrow (Evan Glodell) and his best mate Aiden (Tyler Dawson) meet some charismatic girls at a bar one night. Woodrow bonds with beautiful Milly (Jessie Wiseman) over a cricket eating contest and soon the two can’t be separated. In their spare time, which they seem to have a lot of, Woodrow and Aiden like to build flamethrowers and transform cars, influenced by Mad Max they create their own gang “Mother Medusa” for the global apocalypse they believe is inevitable. We follow the characters as they call each other ‘dude’ and pass time with their new friends.
The second ‘half’ of the film slowly unfolds into almost a Lynchian nightmare with the last two chapter titles being ‘Nobody gets out of here alive’ and ‘In the darkest hour’. Suddenly things become disjointed and non-linear, it’s unnerving and surprising. I am still unsure if I really understood what actually occurs in this concluding part of the film and I definitely want to revisit this film now I know what to expect. Woodrow is an interesting character, one that we see slowly lose his mind, or do we? The violent acts are also rather surprising, this film is certainly not predictable.
Gorgeous expressionistic visuals make Bellflower one of a kind, the colour saturation is a delight. The film is dominated by oranges and yellows from the sunlight to fire, with fire a recurring motif throughout the film. What I really liked about the film is the fact that Glodell really built the flamethrower and the Medusa car and you can tell, in a strange dreamlike film there is a level of believability that allows you to invest in the characters and what they do. Where Woodrow and Aiden get their money from is never addressed though, and as we never see them going to work and there is no mention of family it’s strange that they can afford all the parts to renovate a car, certainly not a cheap thing to do.
The acting is consistent throughout the film, of particular note is Jessie Wiseman’s performance, she has the challenging task of making us fall in love with Milly just as Woodrow does initially and then loving and hating her at the same time later on in the film just as he does, which she successfully manages to do. Woodrow and Aiden are not immediately likeable but you grow to like them as the story progresses. As real life best friends their bond is very believable and at the centre of Bellflower is their dedicated friendship.
Overall Bellflower is a memorable film for its stylistic vision and its strange journey it takes you on. It is by no means a perfect film but it is certainly interesting and original. It feels a bit of a shame about the confusing ending but in actual fact it has made me more determined to see the film again so that I can try and understand more clearly what happens. This is a brave and intriguing first film from Evan Glodell and he is certainly one to watch.
Director: Evan Glodell
Writer: Evan Glodell
Cast: Evan Glodell, Tyler Dawson, Jessie Wiseman
Runtime: 106 mins