Review: Wildflower


Gentle Reader,

A few weeks ago a representative from Faith Street Films contacted me. Would I be interested in receiving an advance copy of their new movie Wildflower in exchange for an honest review?

I’d never heard of Faith Street Films. Never head of Wildflower. Still have no idea how or why I was selected for the blog tour. But hey, why not? I’m not one to turn down free books or movies that look worthwhile. The synopsis intrigued me:

Creatively gifted, college student Chloe Moray finds solace from a difficult childhood in her extraordinary art. But when an alarming dream begins to recur nightly, Chloe starts to believe that it might be a suppressed memory and that she may have witnessed a terrible crime as a little girl. Her search for peace takes her on a journey that forces Chloe to confront her past traumas and leads her to cross paths with Josh, a young man dealing with his own painful loss. Together they find in each other someone they can trust as they seek to unlock a cold-case mystery from years before. But with the authorities blocking the way, Chloe’s new-found hope is challenged in this powerful story of faith, triumph and healing.

If you’ve ever struggled in the aftermath of a difficult situation; if you’ve ever wondered if someone (anyone) will listen to you; if you’ve ever wished there was a safe place you could go, WILDFLOWER is a powerful reminder that hope can be found even in your darkest moments.

I had the chance to sit down and watch the movie this morning. The opening scene features Chloe sitting contemplatively at her easel in a college art studio, dabbing bits of color here and there on a large canvas. Something I noticed immediately: The piece, while lovely and certainly far better than I could ever create, wasn’t exactly “extraordinary.” This continued to hit me throughout the film, especially as it was stressed over and over again that this is a very gifted woman. The pieces shown just didn’t strike quite the right note.

This, I think, comes down to a mixed characterization. Chloe is meant to be extremely bright and emotionally tormented, yet comes across as flat instead of intense in many scenes. That emotional flatness, stemming from blocked memories, is appropriate to the story, and so it would have been more in line to have the character struggling to produce anything at all, instead of the dozens of drawings and the couple of paintings we see. A blocked artist would have made more sense that one in a frenzy.

The plot moves along at a brisk pace. Chloe has long suffered what she terms “blackouts,” which are really symptoms of post-traumatic stress. The episodes have increased in frequency and severity. She lands in the hospital one night after nearly being ran over while standing in the middle of a dark street.

The driver of the vehicle is a man named Josh, who is busy fighting his own demons. After suffering a devastating loss while working with a missions group overseas, he has returned home, without purpose and short on faith. His brother Mark, a pastor of a small church, attempts to get him to open up but is met with steely resistance. Josh is determined to deal with his situation in his own time and way.

The similarities between Chloe and Josh are a strong point of the movie. It’s interesting to watch as they travel parallel paths. At the same time, I had trouble buying into their near-immediate friendship. (Kudos to the writer and director, Nicholas Dibella, for resisting the temptation to plunge them headlong into a romance). It just doesn’t add up that Chloe, who states over and over again that she has trouble trusting people (with good reason), would bring Josh into her inner torment. Nor does it add up that Josh would feel so compelled to help her. This facet of the film would have worked better with a slight tweak: If Chloe and Josh had known each other, even casually, before the night on the dark road.

Chloe slowly comes to understand that the “blackouts” are triggered by a repressed memory. She and Josh work together to uncover the truth, much to the annoyance of local police. Chloe’s mother, with whom she has a broken relationship, worries that her daughter is losing her mind, and there are moments when the audience wonders this as well. By the end of the speedy 92 minutes, everyone knows what really happened, but there are no neat bows. Chloe is not magically fine. Josh is not through with grieving. Neither of them are sliding down rainbows on the backs of fluffy ponies.

Wildflower gets points for that. I appreciate the very real take on the messiness of faith. Josh is a believer who wonders if God really is good. Chloe doesn’t know if she believes in God at all. There is no tidy resolution to their questions, though the audience is left with hope that both with find happy endings.

This movie takes a stab at dealing with issues that many faith-based projects avoid or sugarcoat: Mental illness, sexual molestation, murder, drug and alcohol abuse and single-parent homes. While the scenes of violence are far from graphic, they are real and sobering. There’s no pretending that conversion suddenly makes everything rosy. Despite issues of character and plot, all told it was a decent hour-and-a-half.

My journey to faith. (15)