Black Flowers

It was a beautiful day on the beach for Kate, Sam and their daughter Suzy, enjoying the sun and playing in the surf until the bombs dropped, mushroom clouds rising on the horizon, black flowers of death, radioactive blossoms whose bloom signalled the end of the world, a war in which they had no stake and played no part but had their lives changed all the same.

Almost two years later, they are still together, still surviving, just; hunted by scavengers, living off tins of anchovies, all they seem to be able to find because they’re the one thing nobody was desperate enough to eat, Sam carrying a gunshot wound and no emergency services to offer help even if there was cell reception to call for them or electricity for Suzy to charge her phone.

Could their lives be better? Undoubtedly. Could things be worse? Very likely, as becomes apparent when a fourth traveller joins them, Joe, sweet-tongued but short-tempered, with his eye on Suzy and a way about him that Kate doesn’t like, but he carries with him the promise of a route to a nuclear shelter built by the Salvation Cult where they will find food and medicine – if he is telling the truth.

Written and directed by Martin Gooch, who also served as producer, camera operator, casting director and location manager, Black Flowers received its UK premiere at the Sci-Fi London film festival, a post-apocalyptic road movie, if such a term can be applied to a film where most of the travel is by foot.

Starring Krista DeMille, Ron Roggéille and Andrea Sweeney-Blanco as Kate, Sam and Suzy, better in their quiet family moments than in the frequent crises and confrontations which threaten them, most of the dramatic burden is laid on DeMille who is not helped by Gooch’s thinly written characters, while the duplicity of Joe (Jesús Lloveras) may have been more engaging if presented as a twist rather than played out at the first opportunity.

With many parallels with Stake Land, both stylistically in the stunningly shot expanses of the locations, the mountains and plains of Montana as good as any place to retreat at the end of the world, and in the structure and themes, the physical and emotional desolation and devastation at the end of civilisation, the struggle for resources, the threat of other people, the moments of simple comfort in all the sadness.

Yet where Stake Land had a great sense of purpose and urgency, despite the ever present threat it also had huge hope, whereas Black Flowers drifts aimlessly despite the rumours of cannibals, seemingly resigned, Kate always wanting something better and unwilling to compromise even in the relative safety of the stoner commune run by “DJ Apocalypso” (William Mark McCullough), rejecting them because of their casual indulgence in the soothing bliss of hallucinogenic plants of the title.

The action scenes clumsy, when searching for her kidnapped daughter DeMille is far from Mad Maxine, a realisation which may explain why in the final act the radiation soaked genes of the film awkwardly mutate into low-key slapstick comedy as the film drags towards the 666th day after the end of the world which arrives more with a shrug of acceptance rather than as a profound revelation.

Black Flowers had its UK premiere at the Sci-Fi London film festival on 16th May



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