A special feature debut from multi-hyphenate Evan Glodell and a group of collaborators with whom he shares a long list of short-form credits, Bellflower is the sort of polished, distinctive freshman effort that unfolds with such cool assurance as to restore one’s faith in independent filmmaking.
Set in grubby Los Angeles, and gorgeously photographed in super-saturated, feverish tones by cinematographer Joel Hodge, working with a customized SI-2K camera, Bellflower centers on aimless best buds Woodrow (writer-director Glodell, sort of a more masculinized Jack McBrayer) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson), whose joint focus in life is the construction of a flame-thrower and a tricked-out muscle car, so that they can do damage with chicks after the apocalypse. (Yes, seriously.)
The film’s opening indicates quite plainly that some very bad things are going to happen. It then flashes back in time, charting Woodrow’s awkward courtship with a wild party girl, Milly (Jessie Wiseman, above left). On a dare/whim, they drive to Texas on their first date, while Aiden slowly nurses a crush on Milly’s friend and roommate, Courtney (Rebekah Brandes). Later, construction of their big-boy toys continues, until unraveling relationships bring different sorts of ruin to almost all involved.
For all its emotional honesty, there’s a certain ceiling for the film, since it eschews the heavy lifting of pointed interpersonal conflict for flashier acting out in its third act. And the cast/characters seem a bit old for some of their doomsday preoccupations, which aren’t delved into with enough specificity to illuminate Woodrow and Aiden’s true mental states. But no mind — the basic conflicts and jealousies here are timeless, and Bellflower is so superbly constructed and well acted that it basically exists to approximate the haze of adolescence and young adulthood, when the actions of emotionally charged-up boys and girls are dictated more by hormones than sense. Glodell and his cohorts will continue to grow up, and hopefully make even more interesting films together. (Oscilloscope, R, 106 minutes)