Friday, 15 April 2016
Writer: Rob Burrows
Producer: Denise Wakefield
Cast: Amy Ornston, Jason Savin, Ian Stewart Robinson
Year of release: 2014
Reviewed from: online (TubiTV)
This suprisingly nasty psychothriller starts out inoccuously enough, introducing us to Amy Ormston as Sarah and Ian Stewart Robinson as her husband Andrew. They’re blissfully happy, married with two kids (Mark Burrows and Ellie Ormston) who love their parents as much as the parents love each other. The first 10-15 minutes really lets us know how warm and loving and supportive and happy this family is. To be honest, it makes you sick.
But we signed up to watch a horror movie, so it ain’t gonna last. So that's alright.
Sarah works in a flower shop where one of her regular customers is Nigel (Jason Savin) who couldn’t be more obviously villainous if he twirled a waxed moustache and said, “I’ll get you, my lovely!” Still, there are people who look villainous and then there are stone-cold sociopathic sadist nutjobs. And that’s Nigel.
Over the course of the film, Sarah will be abused and humiliated by this psycho, who flips between hammy explanation and brief surges of savage anger. It’s an interesting performance by Savin, reined in just this side of pantomime villain and all the more scary for it. But what really sells the film – especially given that some of the supporting cast are, well, not great – is Ormston as Sarah.
We really feel her terror and her pain, her loneliness and her broken will. It’s a belter of a performance, it really is: utterly credible and utterly pathetic in the truest sense of the term. But where many films about men torturing and abusing women are misogynist trash, Flowerman is much more sensitive and astute. This is a film about the suffering of the victim, not the power of the abuser.
Even when, later on, she does manage to effect an escape, Sarah is still terrified of Nigel and convinced, as abuse victims often are, that it is somehow her fault. So although she makes it as far as the house of a helpful Polish prostitute (Luiza Stefanova), she doesn’t call the police. Some commenters find this action unbelievable. They need to learn a bit more about manipulative abusers: not every woman is Sarah Connor.
What of Andrew? He is sure that Sarah would never leave him but the two coppers investigating the case (writer-director-DP-editor Rob Burrows and Emma Marshall) think it’s just a domestic disagreement and that Sarah has simply walked out on him. This idea is supported by a neighbour (Denise Burrows) who is convinced that Andrew is having an affair with a work colleague, Jenny (Faye Ormston). The irony is that he wasn’t - but he is now. Jenny has been carrying a torch for Andrew for some time and swiftly makes her move, becoming a surrogate mother to the kids. Nevertheless, Andrew still loves Sarah and is convinced all is not right.
Flowerman is one of those movies that begins unpromisingly but picks up when it starts getting very nasty, not because of any salacious appeal of gender-based violence but because Sarah represents abused women everywhere. It’s not her actual husband abusing her, but it’s a man who thinks he is her ersatz husband and can become her real one. Nigel's obsession manifests itself first in stalking – he has a wall of photos he has taken of Sarah – and then in a belief that he can force her to love, honour and obey him through violence and intimidation. She, as far as he is concerned, belongs to him, body and soul. Thematically therefore this sits with The House of Him and The Devil’s Vice in the ‘domestic abuse as horror’ subgenre.
The other problem is the accents. Every single character speaks with a really strong Northeastern accent (it's actually set in Durham, according to the on-screen police cars) and there were several moments when I literally had not a clue what was being said. The only exception is Stefanova, but her Polish accent is just as thick! The version I watched (on TubiTV, free but with adverts) had close captioning but it was out of synch with the image by about a minute so not really much help.
Powerful enough to overcome its shortcomings and with some genuinely horrific moments, yet rooted in solidly British domesticity, Flowerman is certainly worth a watch.
MJS rating: B