Flowers (2016) Review
Channel 4’s slyly released black comedy ‘Flowers’ hits more than just the comedic points.
Creator/Director: Will Sharpe
Stars: Julian Barratt (Maurice Flowers), Olivia Colman (Deborah Flowers)
Will Sharpe is a rather no-name Japanese writer/director/actor whose only previous noticeable work is his debut feature Black Pond, so to see him craft such a wonderfully bleak drama is surprising. Channel 4 has marked Flowers as a black comedy and while it does have its comedic moments that often hit well, there is a much more personal character-driven story happening here.
Opening with the attempted suicide of Mr. Flowers (Barratt), the 6 episode series never dwindles on the depressing. Instead we see how the hidden emotions of the character lurk under the surface, occasionally showing its weary head to the confusion and dismay of the rest of the cast. Julian Barratt just plays this part perfectly. His on-screen partner Deborah, played by Olivia Colman, is also treated in a superbly realistic manner, though more of the general audience will be familiar with her ascending acting career of late. They both rub-up against each other to create an atmosphere of friction, with a faint air of comedic sensibilities that helps to break some of the more absorbing tension. While their marriage may be on the rocks, you can still see the connection between the two.
The Flowers are not the only ones facing problems. Everybody in the show has some sadness and challenges to tackle. Maurice’s mother has lost sense of the world, his daughter has depression and struggles to share her true self, even the local builder lost his wife in recent times. Some of these issues are easy to see on the surface level, whilst others have theirs hidden away and take time to unfold. Such a world becomes paradoxically uplifting and reassuring to see, so when the ending comes it becomes so heart-warming as to bring tears to the eye. The show doesn’t immediately start with the viewer wrapped-up within the character’s lives though. It takes time to grow on a person, but after the first couple of episodes it is easy to become invested and to have the reactions mentioned.
To write about the show and not discuss some of the audio-visual flares included would be to do it a disservice. Occasionally these beautiful non-diagetic scenes occur, shot in the style of the opening title. These artistic moments emphasise the world in which Flowers is rooted, and are often coupled with fantastically interesting musical pieces that, in the reality of the programme, are written by the daughter of the Flowers. Even outside of these scenes it is clear that the director and cinematographer wish to elevate the visual fidelity above that of a regular sitcom, with some meticulously crafted moments akin to that of celebrated indie-darling director Wes Anderson. Never do these approaches to filmmaking ever come across as pretentious or copy-cat however, which is a great acheivment.
I was very pleased that I watched Flowers (2016). Going in I assumed that it was a dark comedy that could keep me entertained for its short duration, but I left with a different feeling for illness and despair. That such sad moments are shared by everybody and can be scattered with these uplifiting and funny moments is such an important message in today’s disconnected world. I look forward to seeing what Will Sharpe works on next, and will definitely be checking out his debut film.