Flower in the Pocket Requires an NPR Tote for a Brain


Not showing anything like an authorial personality means never having to say you’re sorry. Lazy “realism” is even good for an award or two on the law-of-averages festival circuit—Pusan and Rotterdam, in this case. In the inverse of an auspicious debut, Malaysia’s Liew Seng Tat has made a film studiously burnished of anything to suggest he had input into its creation: arbitrary static framing, ambient soundtracking, vague performances, tick-tock monotonous cutting, and natural-sourced lighting. Flower in the Pocket concerns two brothers, not-especially-spontaneous-or-capable child actors, left by their father to sprout like weeds. Ethnic Chinese Mandarin speakers at a Bahasa school, the boys are perpetual classroom scapegoats. Wandering through outer Kuala Lumpur, they interact with a puppy and tomboyish Muslim girl. Apparent levity includes mild scatology and the brothers scampering for the bus only to discover they’ve accidentally dressed in each other’s mis-sized uniforms. Shot on location in rundown districts and focused on just-getting-by families, the film can stake some journalistic claim to social relevance, but you’d have to have an NPR tote for a brain to call this art.