“Lord Humungous cannot be defiled.” – Lord Humungous
This Mad Max quote opens Bellflower, and it cuts right to the film’s central theme.
The two main characters, best friends, play with the idea of the apocalyptic “end of the world.” It’s their bond. Their project. Their playground. And they are literally preparing for it by building a flamethrower, and later a car, that will help them prevail after the world crumbles into a Mad Max like dystopia. But most of us think of the end of the world on a grand scale, not in personal terms. This movie explores a very intimate apocalypse.
The first part of the film evokes the complexities of dating in your mid-to-late twenties when you’re supposed to be Doing Something With Yourself, but no one you know is married yet and everyone gets blackout drunk every night because they can. It begins as the hipster’s romantic comedy.
Woodrow (played by director, writer, producer Evan Glodell) meets Millie in a bar over a cricket-eating contest. On their first date, they agree to drive half-way across the country to a dive bar on a dare because it’s the “cheapest, nastiest, scariest place” he can think of. It’s great shorthand to see them get to know each other. After this adventure across state lines, they begin to see each other seriously despite Millie’s warning that “things will go bad.”
When things do go bad, the shock to Woodrow’s system is visceral. And the film reflects this by scrambling the narrative as Woodrow’s reality disjoints. All the support beams fall away. Then, Woodrow’s world really does end. The apocalypse arrives only for him, and he’s left with nothing real except the Mad Max car and flamethrower that will help him persevere.
The banter feels authentic, if slightly forced at times. The acting falls short in only a few places. A couple of lines drop like lead from the mouths of the actors. But the chemistry between the characters feels just awkward enough in the right moments and just right when it’s supposed to mesh. They seem more real for the uneven delivery. And more three dimensional because their hair and makeup isn’t perfectly crafted in every scene.
The film is shot in a lo-fi, with lenses that give an Instagram-esque filter look. This results in the cinematography having the same hipster feel as the clothes that the characters wear, the bicycles they ride, and the aimless lives they lead. Between that and the references to Mad Max, this is a film that builds on cultural connections. It creates a world through touchstones to our own.
Basically, all of the elements of this truly independent film come together to show just what cinema outside of studio influence can offer. There’s a personal feeling that Glodell crafted this film as a labor of love from beginning to end. It’s the closest thing we’re likely to get to the personal signature of an artist on a piece of film in an age when studio executives, test audiences, and producer after producer after producer all have their hands in the creative process.