Wildflower (2023) Film Review |

Wildflower movie still

We’ve seen Bea’s story in Wildflower in the past. Film has been a proper medium for adapting “coming of age” stories that range from the hilarious to the seriously dramatic, and this kind of stories has even spawned into a subgenre in comedies and drama that always seems to work. At least somebody has to connect, and success is measured when in a third act everything gears up to fulfill the promise made in the beginning: it all has to line up.

Wildflower takes place faithfully considering this very rigid set of rules. There’s no other direction to go but to paint Bea’s story as excruciating but fulfilling in the end. The standard scenes and characters show up, the narrative structure is followed upon. We in the audience, as used as we are to these stories, always look up to the twists. Wildflower hasn’t many of those, but the biggest shift comes from the performance of one great Kiernan Shipka and the always reliable Dash Mihok. The rest are part of an admirable ensemble cast that feel trapped in a cliche-ridden film that feels restricted but endearing.

Regardless, it pays off. This is an interesting film because of the improbable things in it. It’s the story of Bea, a girl raised by mentally challenged parents. She’s always felt responsible for taking care of them, and the rest of the family isn’t quite connected with their nucleus. The three of them have their own dynamic and this has made Bea an anxious but mature teenager. When an accident leaves her in a coma, the family gather to support each other and we hear Bea in a voice-over as she travels back and analyzes her whole life and the events leading up to the accident.

Again, Wildflower relies heavily on Shipka’s Bea and not exactly on the fact that it’s based on a true story. Director Matt Smukler doesn’t play around with plot experiments and decides to follow the standard. This makes Wildflower compelling in the beginning but then it loses some steam in the second act when Bea’s characted is already developed and it starts playing around with comedic moments that are subtly funny but unremarkable.

However, there’s something quite honest in how Wildflower stays inside the frontiers of dramatic territory and doesn’t risk much. The premise of “mentally challenged parents” is used sometimes to accelerate drama and comedy, but it quickly shows that this is not what Smukler does best with his film. It’s reading between the lines and observing dynamics from the outside. The organic texture of Bea’s journey is engaging in the end, even when it seems improbable that this is what happened. Nevertheless, we let it slide for the sake of a family-friendly drama that check every item on the list and makes for a decent watch with a great cast.

Seriously, how does Mihok not appear more often in films? The man is a legend that we forgot about too soon. But hey, there’s always time for a comeback and he can do drama as well as others.

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Federico Furzan

Founder of Screentology. Member of the OFCS. RT Certified Critic

Dog dad.

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