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Flower & Garnet
By Derek Elley
An Odeon Films release of an Alliance Atlantis presentation of a Screen Siren Pictures production. (International sales: Alliance Atlantis Communications, Toronto.) Produced by Trish Dolman. Executive producers, Alexandra Raffe, Marguerite Pigott, Bryan Gliserman, Dolman, Dean English, Jessica Fraser. Directed, written by Keith Behrman.
With: Callum Keith Rennie, Jane McGregor, Colin Roberts, Dov Tiefenbach, Kristen Thomson.
A tidy portrait of dysfunctional family life in rural, smalltown British Columbia, "Flower & Garnet" reps an interesting feature debut by shortsmaker Keith Berman that hits all its targets in a professional way but is light on genuine, involving drama. Ideal fest fare (and screening, exceptionally, at all three major Canuck events this fall), pic will find its true market outside anglophone Canada on the small screen, where its discreet, rather dry tone will sit better.

After a pre-title sequence of the funeral of the family's mother, film moves forward some 10 years to find daughter Flower (Jane McGregor) now a beautiful teen and her young brother, Garnet (Colin Roberts), a lonely kid who lives in his own world. The father, Ed (Callum Keith Rennie), prefers a beer to communicating with his children and, though nice, is hopeless at being the family head.

While Ed puzzles about what to buy Garnet for his birthday, Flower gets on with her life, sleeping with boyfriend Carl. When she announces she's pregnant, and walks out on her surprised dad, Garnet tags along, only to be rebuked by Flower to stop following her everywhere. "I'm not your mother, you know," she snaps.

When Flower decides to have her baby and moves in with Barb (Kristen Thomson), a former g.f. of Ed's, father and son are thrown together and forced to make a go of it. In some nicely observed scenes, Ed teaches Garnet how to shoot with a toy gun -- an introduction to firearms that is to backfire on the father.

Chamber-like in its emotions and dramatic scope, with only some half-dozen characters in the frame, pic is solidly acted and cleanly shot by d.p. Steve Cosens in semi-bleak B.C. locations. Rennie handles the difficult role of the father (somewhere between wimp and wastrel) with sympathetic skill; McGregor is just OK as the daughter, but Roberts makes much of a potentially alienating role.

However, throughout the film there's a feeling of a more interesting story to be told. Berman has consciously opted for a low-key approach, and follows through in a technically proficient manner, but as a writer he falls short on meaty dialogue as a substitute for emotional fireworks.
Camera (color), Steve Cosens; editor, Michael John Bateman; music, Peter Allen; art directors, Laura Killam, James P. Willcock; sound (Dolby Digital), Craig Stauffer: assistant director, Carl Mason. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Panorama Canada), Aug. 26, 2002. (Also in Toronto -- Perspective Canada, and Vancouver film festivals.) Running time: 103 MIN.


Flower & Garnet is a slow meditation on the state of a Canadian family weighed down by years of unspoken grief and resentment. The story is unveiled through the eyes of Garnet (Colin Roberts), a sad and isolated eight-year-old who has been raised by his sister Flower (Jane McGregor) after their mother died giving birth to him, leaving their father Ed (Callum Keith Rennie) distant and uncommunicative. Garnet moves through his childhood explorations with the weight of the world upon him, painfully aware of the burden his mere presence has placed upon his family. Things start to fall apart further when the teenaged Flower, chafing at parental responsibility she has been saddled with since childhood, begins to rebel sexually, assert her independence and challenge Ed to be more of a parent than he is seemingly capable of.This is a very quiet and thoughtful film, with its meaning placed in what the characters leave unsaid. The script is basically a collection of these unspoken moments, the reproachful silences and unexpressed emotions resonating far deeper than the histrionics which usually accompany this type of family drama. The trio of lead actors do an incredible job of conveying the range and depth of emotion that their tight-lipped characters require. A remarkably understated Callum Keith Rennie imbues his misguided and remote Ed with a painful humanity, while Jane McGregor plays Flower with the perfect combination of world-weary experience and typical teenage impetuousness, and young Colin Roberts is mesmerising and heartbreaking as Garnet.


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