Bathed in golden California sunlight and brimming with all the hope the West Coast can muster, "Bellflower" is a love story for the 21st Century, where boy meets girl, girl destroys boy, boy exacts swift and brutal retribution and all parties, including the audience, are left wondering WTF just happened?
"Bellflower" stars Evan Glodell (who also wrote, directed and produced the film) as Woodrow, whose "Mad Max"-inspired preparations for the apocalypse are derailed when he falls under the spell of a gorgeous blonde, Milly, whom he first meets in a bug-eating contest at a bar. A subsequent first date lasts days, crosses a number of statelines, and Woodrow finds himself falling hard.
As rich and real as the romance feels, as director, Glodell maintains a sense of doom that hangs over the proceedings, one established by a flash-forward montage at the film's outset. Composed of knives and blood and screaming, it makes clear that no matter how much you may be sharing the the glee of Woodrow and Mily's new love, an emotional doomsday is right around the corner. What starts out all kittens and daisies suddenly sneaks up on you and drops a four-pound hammer on your head.
"Bellflower" is also a stark meditation on Manhood, as Woodrow and his best friends Aiden rejoice in cars, flamethrowers, sideburns, whiskey, beer, bacon, motorcycles and the guy code. And yet, as focused as the film is on Manhood, it's totally devoid of any celebration of Macho nonsense. There's plenty of Macho, yes, but Glodell possesses the self-awareness to recognize it as nonsense.
Woodrow is not that much of a stretch for Glodell, as the character he is playing is essentially himself. But where plenty of people have failed at playing themselves, Glodell does nicely, transforming from shy Midwesterner to Lord Humongous to a man with a Herculean bout of Post-Romantic Stress Disorder. Tyler Dawson as Aiden, is the perfect high-energy sidekick, Tigger to Glodell's Pooh.
But it's Jesse Wiseman who gives the film its most crucial performance, as she makes Milly somehow sexy and likable, while also being wretched and vindictive.
Glodell spent eight years making this film (including building the camera with which it was shot), having started writing the script shortly after a rather unpleasant break-up in 2003. It's a testament to his gift as a storyteller and his maturity as a Man that the real-life "Milly" has seen the film and likes it. And if Milly can look past her own culpability to enjoy "Bellflower," surely you can, too.
"Bellflower" opens in limited release