Flowers Shows the Horrors of War
- Holly McClure Movie Reviewer
- 2002 25 Feb
Harrison's Flowers - R
Best for: Mature adults who can handle intense war scenes
What it's about: It's 1991 and Harrison Lloyd (David Strathairn) is a photojournalist for Newsweek sent to cover the unrest in Yugoslavia. He ends up missing and presumed dead. When his distraught wife, Sarah (Andie MacDowell), who also works for the publication, hears the news, she refuses to accept it. She spots what she thinks is a glimpse of Harrison in some news coverage and immediately heads off to Yugoslavia in hopes of finding her husband. After a violent and scary introduction to this foreign world, Sarah accepts the help of other photojournalists who knew her husband: Yeager Pollack (Elias Koteas), Marc Stevenson (Brendan Gleeson) and Kyle Morris (Adrien Brody). They risk their lives to help her find him.
The good: Harrison's Flowers is an emotional look at one woman's determination to find her husband despite overwhelming odds. MacDowell does an incredible job but is likewise supported by talented actors. Together they take the audience through the living hell of a war unlike any they'd seen before. I liked the ways the family unit was shown before dad left and the struggles to readapt as the movie unfolds. Tender husband/wife and father/children moments are what keep the story sane.
I came out of this movie grateful that our country isn't engaged in a similar war. At a time when Americans are reminded of just how threatening terrorism can be, seeing the maniacal events in Yugoslavia demonstrates how important our fight really is.
The not-so-good: All of the language and violence that I list below.
Offensive language and behavior: Lots of it! Funny that a movie about the press (who supposedly have a command of the English language) uses so much profanity. An abundant use of the "F"- word (I stopped counting after 50) and scatological and anatomical terms. Lots of religious profanity. Various characters drink and/or smoke. One character uses cocaine and pops pills to sleep and stay awake. A soldier is shown relieving himself in the grass.
Sexual situations: Harrison grabs Sarah and they kiss and apparently have sex while standing up fully clothed (nothing is shown, just movement and sounds). When she then goes to work, everyone teases her about how flushed and exhausted she looks.
Violence: So many brutal and gory death scenes I can't possibly list them all. Sarah's journey begins when an explosion goes off next to the car she's driving, causing her to lose control and crash. As she and her passenger try to get out, a tank drives over the back of her car, but soldiers pull them out and hold them at gunpoint. As they interrogate the other passenger, Sarah is hit on her face and then thrown on the car. The soldier kills the passenger then attempts to rape Sarah but is stopped by a nearby explosion. The violence and intensity are extreme in almost every scene thereafter. Piles of dead bodies are shown, men and women are shot at close range, and a bus has several dead people strewn around it (including a small girl who was raped and shot in the head).
Parental advisory: This is a heavy story with realistic wartime violence. In the past, I've urged parents to take mature teens to see realistic war movies because I believe that realism helps separate the truth about what war is from the videogames that have dumbed-down and distorted wartime violence. I've also recommended seeing films that show how patriotism and camaraderie help win a war. But this is a war where there was no sense of justice, or even a just cause, and the violence and cruelty are gratuitous and depressing. Needless to say, don't take your teenagers to see this one.
Bottom line: This movie has a strong message about never giving up on a loved one, but it's not an easy movie to watch and will probably disturb many who see it.