Where the Flowers Bloom
May 1, 2023
Olivia Luying Wang
Olivia Luying Wang
Dina Selimovic, Erik Scilley, Danilo Crovetti
In a challenging and emotional short drama, Olivia Luying Wang’s Where the Flowers Bloom tackles trauma, depression, and anti-war sentiment in a well-acted and produced but at-times surface-level and melodramatic account of one woman’s attempts to come home from battle.
Former soldier Diana (Dina Selimovic) has returned home from war with haunting accounts of tragedy a sinister accomplice. Her husband Max (Erik Scilley) makes efforts to reclaim normality for the pair, but Diana’s PTSD creates a barrier between them. When their neighbour’s child Oleg (Danilo Crovetti) visits, Diana’s life reaches a crossroads as she realises her struggle to make human connection.
Where the Flowers Bloom is an intense and emotionally heavy short that pulls no punches with a harrowing account of the damage that the unresolved traumas of war can inflict on soldiers. The film is unafraid to portray the horrors of war or to portray the realities of suicide and self-harm (for which viewers should be aware). Diana’s grief is brought to life by a spectacular performance from Dina Selimovic, who portrays the character with complexity, compassion and respect – and utterly convinces the audience that untold pain resides behind her striking eyes.
The film looks great as well, with cool tones seeped over the screen that pull the viewer into Diana’s sadness-tainted world. Diana and Max’s home forbodes over the pair and further creates a sense of darkness and distance with the select sources of light only penetrating in brief moments to match the protagonist’s emotional state.
The script does let the film down, with clunky and expository dialogue that never really convinces despite impressive delivery. Viewers are whacked over the head with story beats and thematics, which unintentionally create a sense of insecurity on the filmmakers’ part that audiences wouldn’t keep up with the plot. This is not to say that the film isn’t moving or touching, and it is clear that the filmmakers’ hearts are in the right place. But melodrama is the result of the attempt to punch straight through the viewer’s ribcage and tug as hard as possible at their heartstrings. The film’s final image is the ultimate embodiment of this mindset, and is sure to be divisive. Audiences must be left to their own decision as to whether they think it is necessary or appropriate (I stray on the side that thinks it is just about justified), but regardless, it is certainly evidence that the mantra of ‘less is more’ has been left by the wayside.
Where the Flowers Bloom is ultimately a brave and memorable short film that does have imperfections. It is imperfect, but its compassionate message is admirable and unashamed.