Set in the 1960s, Winnipeg-based writer/director Shelagh Carter's Passionflower follows the confusing journey of young Sarah Matthews as she begins to process the increasingly erratic actions of her mother, Beatrice (Kristen Harris). A trophy wife, of sorts, the vampy redhead is prone to manic-depressive fits, which usually follow an evening of inappropriate aggressively flirtatious behaviour.
When she's not screaming and crying on the floor, Beatrice is completely obsessed with her physical appearance and derives her sense of self-worth by enforcing the perception that she's a potent sexual object to anyone who'll pay her mind. In her tunnel vision of self-interest, Beatrice neglects Sarah, showing more concern for how her daughter is dressed than the girl's obvious artistic talent and excellent grades in school.
With a father always preoccupied by work and a little brother too young to do anything but cling to mommy's infallibility, Sarah forms a friendship with a boy at school who shares her passion for art and her mother's obsession with the beauty of the female form. As suggested by the opening scene, in which Sarah takes a shortcut through a patch of dark forest to make her way home, the young girl explores the greedy and manipulative side of her mother's illness, fearing that the bipolar disorder affecting her mother and grandmother is an inevitability that will claim her too.
Carter employs a lot of low camera angles to enforce the perspective of a child looking up to her parents but otherwise utilizes a simple unobtrusive shooting style that lets the strong performances (especially by the fearless Harris) do the talking.
This low-key character piece leaves a bit much unexplained, failing to explore why Beatrice's bipolar outbursts manifest as desperate sexuality, leaving things very open-ended, but it's still a worthwhile look at the scary journey of recognizing morally abject behaviour in the one person a child is supposed to be able to trust.
Passionflower screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Wednesday, November 14th, 2012, at 6:30pm. (Passionflower Films)
ReviewsOct 29, 2014
The BabadookJennifer Kent
At every Toronto After Dark Fest, there's at least one film that rides a wave of palpable buzz and has attendees clamouring to see it. Last ...
ReviewsOct 24, 2014
Films about time travel are some of the trickiest ones to create as far as sci-fi subgenres are concerned — it's not so much about the...
ReviewsOct 23, 2014
Why Horror?Nicolas Kleiman, Rob Lindsay
As a nerd, it's always pretty weird seeing your favourite genre rise to the surface of mainstream culture, and horror is no exception. In hi...
ReviewsOct 22, 2014
Time LapseBradley King
You don't fuck with time. That's the philosophical takeaway - an idea espoused time and time again by one of the lead characters - in Bradle...
ReviewsOct 21, 2014
John Geddes' Hellmouth is a kaleidoscopic vision of hell that tantalizes with some bewitching visuals but ultimately comes off more as funho...
ReviewsOct 20, 2014
Kumiko, The Treasure HunterDavid Zellner
In 2001, a woman named Takako Konishi was found dead in a remote area of Minnesota. Botched eyewitness information swirled into an urban leg...
ReviewsOct 19, 2014
Man, I really wanted to like Zombeavers. Based on the trailer, which currently boasts over three million hits on YouTube, the film seemed li...
ReviewsOct 18, 2014
ABCs of Death 2Various Directors
When producers Ant Timpson and Tim League announced that they'd be producing a followup to 2012's highly ambitious anthology film The ABCs o...