Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 93 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 13+. This faith-based film is about a young woman whose recurring nightmare turns out to be more than just her subconscious; there is some questioning of God and the importance of faith, mention of sexual assault and child molestation, an unsolved murder and characters who die off-screen, adults drink and mention drug use, a fistfight, a jump scare involving a ghost, and some supernatural elements.
‘Wildflower’ tries to pair its unsolved-murder premise with a message about healing through faith, but the resulting film doesn’t sketch out either idea that well.
By Roxana Hadadi
“Wildflower” feels like an unfinished film. There are a variety of subplots here, and practically all of them feel half-baked. From its unsolved-murder main plot to various other storylines about child molestation, missionary work, and faith-based healing, “Wildflower” puts forth a wide range of ideas without backing them up effectively.
The film focuses on 20-year-old art student Chloe (Nathalia Ramos), who feels like she’s totally alone. She has a poor relationship with her mother, has never known her father, and has only one close friend, a diner waitress named Rebecca (Alex Steele). Only Rebecca knows about Chloe’s recurring nightmare of a huge pickup truck chasing her down, but they disagree about its meaning. Rebecca thinks it’s “only a bad dream,” but Chloe disagrees – what if it’s a premonition?
That’s a scary thought, and it’s even more stress for Chloe, who is already worried about an upcoming art showcase. But when Chloe wakes up one night surrounded by sketches she drew during a blackout – sketches that look suspiciously like Rebecca – she becomes worried that her premonitions are about her friend, who has suddenly gone missing. But her visions aren’t taken seriously by anyone, from her mother to local police, and instead of paying attention to her concerns, they suggest institutionalizing her. Who can Chloe trust?
This is a question Chloe literally wonders out loud: “It’s hard to tell who to trust sometimes.” “Wildflower” doesn’t have a particularly nuanced script.
The only person who seems to take her seriously is the local pastor’s brother Josh (Cody Longo), who finds Chloe standing transfixed on a bridge one night. Why did she go there? Is she imagining things, or remembering them? And through their pain – Josh is mourning the death of the woman he loved, who died during a missionary trip to Tanzania; Chloe is wondering about her own sanity – will they find strength in the Christian faith that they had previously questioned?
The best way to describe “Wildflower” would be like a Very Special Episode of a teen-centered TV show: The characters talk around their problems, but the film is too skittish about going into enough detail so that either Chloe or Josh feel like real people. Sexual assault and child molestation aren’t explicitly mentioned, for example, but we see a young girl in a flowered dress running through a field – a vision of innocence lost. Josh doesn’t talk about his grief to anyone, but we do see him, a carpenter, working on church pews and thumbing through a Bible.
What the film lacks in subtlety for its script, it also rejects for its characterizations – and, as is often frustratingly the case with faith-based films as a genre, it’s the male character saving the female. Only when Josh pays attention to Chloe and vouches for her to the police and the local community do people finally begin to listen, setting up a dynamic so that even Chloe’s sharing of her troubled past to her own mother is at Josh’s urging. How he’s positioned as a Christ-like figure is so obvious it’s kind of offensive, and by the end, when Chloe asks Josh, “Who taught you to see with your heart like that?”, her individual agency is practically totally gone.
But that’s what makes “Wildflower” so clunky: Its insistence on tying in superficial, faith-based messaging not only undermines the characters but adds an unbelievably tidy bow at the end of the story, too. “You really think faith can play a part in healing someone?” Chloe asks, and maybe it does. But it’s not the kind of faith present in “Wildflower.”
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