A sweet melancholia pervades FLOWERS. The juxtaposition of life’s relentless move forward and the cryptic nature of human identity that confounds, delights, and charms work in tandem in this quietly powerful and unconventional love story.
Moving on is the theme that ties the two tangential storylines together. In the first, Ane (Nagore Aranburu) learns that she is premenopausal. An off-screen doctor tells her what to expect, and she takes the news with a wistful equanimity. Upon arriving home, she discovers a large bouquet of flowers have been delivered without a card. Her pleasure is somehow heightened when she learns that they are not from her husband, Anders (Egoitz Lasa), and even more delighted when a bouquet arrives at the same time every week, also anonymous. Anders, however, can’t believe that Ane doesn’t know who they are from, even going so far as to confront the florist whence the gifts originate, demanding to know why customers are not asked of ID when buying bouquets, and being met with bemusement by both his wife and the hapless clerk. The heretofore unquestioned relationship between husband and wife shifts. Cracks that neither had suspected of existing appear, provoking Ane to start keeping secrets from Anders by hiding the bouquets when they arrive, and then taking them to her job as a clerk in a construction office.
In the second story, Beñat (Josean Bengoetxea), a crane operator where Ane works, negotiates the subtle but intractable Cold War being waged between his mother, Tere (Itziar Aizpuru), and his wife, Lourdes (Itziar Ituño). The older woman has definite ideas about everything, from where things belong in Lourdes’ kitchen, to when the couple should start giving her grandchildren, pointedly, if passive-aggressively, overlooking Lourdes’ son from her previous marriage. Beñat, both literally and metaphorically, remains above it all, tending the exuberant flower boxes on his balcony and good-naturedly talking both patience and common sense to both women.
Tragedy strikes. Correspondences are revealed. Facts are assumed. With each, the whole tenor of each woman’s relationships comes into question. There is a wondrous suspense, a delicate tension as the film simultaneously establishing a need for those relationships, while also exploring the perceptions that make others, and even ourselves, a fathomless mystery. Who we are as differentiated by the emotional baggage we carry, the projection with which we imbue others, and torture ourselves, becomes a fascinating conundrum that unfolds with compassion, warmth, and searing insight. And all framed in the eponymous blooms of the title, as those flowers come to represent as many different things to different characters as there are flowers involved in those bouquets and flowerboxes.
Throughout FLOWERS, an aetherial light suffuses the action, even during the most emotionally ragged confrontations, as though the light of heaven is trying to make itself manifest to these lost souls looking for peace. Enigmatic and passionate, funny and heartbreaking, FLOWERS is profoundly moving as it eschews the obvious while embracing the fundamental.