When Pulitzer Prize winning photo journalist Harrison (David Strathairn) goes missing, presumed dead in war torn Croatia, his wife Sarah (Andie MacDowell) refuses to believe the worst and is hell-bent on finding him. She leaves her two children cared for at home, and finds herself in the middle of horrific conflict in the Serbian war. In helping Sarah, fellow photo journalists Kyle (Adrien Brody), Stevenson (Brendan Gleeson) and Harrison’s best friend Yeager (Elias Koteas) find new perspective armed solely with camera lenses.
Review by Louise Keller:
Although Harrison’s Flowers was released theatrically elsewhere in the world, it was not released in Australia. Echoing some resonances with both Proof of Life and Charlotte Gray (made within a year of each other), this story of a determined woman’s courage to find her husband in a war zone offers winning performances and some effecting moments. The establishment of the family bond in the early part of the film is crucial to the storyline, when we meet Sarah and Harrison at work and at home. Theirs is obviously a relationship of passion. Some of the points the film wants to make are rather heavy handed in the making – such as the over-emphasis of Harrison’s greatness at the award ceremony and the scene when his editor rejects his request to quit, saying ‘Just a little longer’ feels like a token of what is to come.
Director/screenwriter Elie Chouraqui excels once the film takes off in Croatia, when we are thrown into the deep end. The scene when Sarah’s car is in part bulldozed and her companion shot at point-blank range is a shocking one that immediately captures the terror. MacDowell is fabulous as the courageous and determined wife who is in total denial that something could have happened to her husband. (‘Something would have broken inside, if he was dead.’) Her photogenic features in tight close up as her eyes well up with oceans of tears has great impact, and her horror when first confronted by atrocities in the warzone is completely believable.
The film’s structure, recounted in flashback by different voices distances us in part from the key elements of the story and I would have preferred the story told as a narrative. The war scenes are devastating and claustrophobic. I don’t want to reveal the film’s ending, but it feels as though a tag has been added. Terrific casting with Strathairn as Harrison; Strathairn has tremendous screen presence and is a much underrated actor. Koteas creates a credible persona whose changes we embrace. The title refers to the flowers in Harrison’s beloved greenhouse, where he nurtures beauty and peace; a total contrast to the life he has been leading. It’s the symbol for everything he aspires to, and heralds a melancholy note.
Published August 29, 2002
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PRIZE PACK WINNERS:
Nigel Jones (Tas)
Belinda Turvey (Qld)
Andrew Anderson (NSW)
Bruce Haynes (WA)
Huw Cooksley (SA)
HARRISON'S FLOWERS (MA)
CAST: Andie MacDowell, Adrien Brody, Brendan Gleeson, Elias Koteas, David Strathairn, Alun Armstrong, Diane Baker, Caroline Goodall
PRODUCER: Elie Chouraqui, Albert Cohen
DIRECTOR: Elie Chouraqui
SCRIPT: Elie Chouraqui, Didier Le Pêcheur, Isabel Ellsen (novel by Isabel Ellsen)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Nicola Pecorini
EDITOR: Jacques Witta
MUSIC: Cliff Eidelman, Bruno Coulais (French version)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Giantito Burchiellaro
RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: 21st Century Pictures Video
VIDEO RELEASE: September 4, 2002
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.