Written and directed by Evan Glodell and filmed on a micro budget, Bellflower is an incendiary bit of filmmaking that unapologetically welds violence, loveless infatuation and post-teen angst. The characters are, for the most part, irresponsible losers in almost every sense of the word. Untethered from reality, theirs is a video-game existence that follows a crazy-eights destruction-derby path to self-annihilation. Yet, like a car crash, there’s something about Bellflower that draws us in and keeps us engaged.
The film opens with reverse vignettes of violence, foreshadowing the film’s bizarre, unconventional style that, at times, descends to film-school production values. We’re introduced to Woodrow (Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) who devote part of their free time constructing a flamethrower and sprucing up a flame spewing car, a “black tarantula” called Medusa—all in preparation for a MadMax type of apocalypse that Aiden envisions is just around the corner.
Glodell’s characters exist in a universe where there are no jobs, no police, and seemingly no social order or framework. Lives, loves and ambitions are as disheveled as the squalor of their surroundings. Everything is focused on the carnal here and now, oblivious to consequences. When Woodrow threatens a huge beer-brawling patron outside a bar and expects him to apologize to Milly, we’re not surprised that Woodrow lands flat on his ass. Or when he trades in his car for a motorbike and rides thousands of miles from Texas to California with Milly, impulse trumps common sense.
Glodell’s obsession with “Lynchian” homages sometimes interferes with plotting detail and makes us question the motives of Bellflower’s characters. When Woodrow meets Milly (Jessie Wiseman) in a bar over a bug-eating contest, she becomes the monkey in Bellflower’s wrench. And for a while, the film segues into a kind of Blue Valentine tragedy. Milly’s abrupt change of heart and Woodrow’s rekindled relationship with Milly’s friend Courtney (Rebekah Brandes) both serve the script but leave the story line running on half cylinders. Milly warns Woodrow that things will end badly, which turns out to be the only predictable bit of narrative in this film.
The point is, Bellflower’s puzzle piece storyline shifts gears erratically like Medusa, roaring, squealing, careening and fishtailing aimlessly. The audience is left hoping that the film will slow down, settle in neutral for just the briefest moment and answer some basic questions–like where are these characters really headed? And what do they want out of life or their relationships? But this is not that kind of film. Glodell sustains the pedal-to-the-metal ride, sans logic, hoping you’ll stay with him for every emotional, violent funhouse turn as the film leaps relentlessly to its hellish conclusion.