Hailing from the Basque Country of northern Spain, the languid drama Flowers is a film with an identity problem. Its focus shifts between Ane (Nagore Aranburu), a timid woman who is told at the start that she’s going through early menopause; Lourdes (Itziar Ituño), a harried wife and mother; and Lourdes’s stepmother, Tere (Itziar Aizpuru), the one who’s harrying her.
The women are connected by Lourdes’s husband, Beñat (Josean Bengoetxea), a fleshy, nondescript man who works at the same building site as Ane. After he’s killed in a car accident, they share an uncertainty about how to move on, their need for closure leading them to make assumptions about who he was while he was alive.
The film has two directors, the team of filmmakers Jon Garaño and Jose Mari Goenaga, who previously worked on 2010’s For 80 Days, so perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Flowers is both a character study and a slow-to-develop mystery. This passive strategy is reflected in Lourdes and Tere’s strained relationship, and the long, quiet shots of Ane hitching rides to the crash site. Pulled in too many directions, the film’s subtle mood-building starts to feel intentionally oblique, the force of its characters and symbols lessened by a frustrating circuitousness.
It’s a shame, because Garaño and Goenaga’s imagery is sometimes strikingly clear — the building site’s skeletal cranes, a stray sheep on the country’s winding, mountainous roads, the startlingly intimate handling of Beñat’s pallid body by medical students. These symbols point to something wilder and rougher beneath the niceties and social conventions evoked by flowers themselves — something that, ultimately, remains buried.
Directed by Jon Garaño and Jose Mari Goenaga
Music Box Films
Opens October 30, Paris Theatre