GMFF - Day Of The Flowers - Cinema Review

'To say that Rosa is a hard protagonist to identify with is doing a great disservice to all regularly hard protagonists everywhere.'

With a sold out screening of Girl Shaped Love Drug primed for later in the evening, Greater Manchester Film Festival continued to impress on the Saturday with another well managed, 75% full screening of Day Of The Flowers, a co-Scottish and Cuban production, complete with attendance by producer Jonathan Rae, director John Roberts and writer Eirene Houston.

In a perhaps too-frank Q&A, Roberts admitted he wasn't really sure why a key character (antagonist Ernesto (Christopher Simpson)) makes a late reappearance into the story, whilst Houston declared herself a 'lefty' and Roberts declared himself 'not a lefty'. In a film concerned, at least in passing, with the state of post-revolution Cuba, the fact that writer and director seem to be pulling in all sorts of different directions - on screen and off - would appear to present all sorts of problems.

Of much greater concern though is Houston's script, which feels very much like a first draft. Ernesto's late re-entrance isn't motivated by anything other than the film's requirement to create some last act action but, even worse, is Conway (Bryan Dick) a character surely destined for the cutting-room floor in any other production. Wearing a kilt and sleeveless shirt, he is the traditional Scots presence in the midst of modern sisters Rosa (Eva Birthistle) and Ailie (Charity Wakefield). He isn't needed, has little of importance to do and hardly even provides the comic relief he seems destined for. A very, very, late development in his love life is a step of believability far too far for this film to go.

Perhaps even more worrying than Conway (and you'll notice that the worries are multiplying) is the writing behind Birthistle's tempestuous character. By the end of the film she has fallen out with literally every other character; Conway, Ailie, Ernesto, Ernesto's cousin (Luis Alberto GarcĂ­a), her own step-mother, love interest Tomas (Carlos Acosta), the random group of travellers our group find themselves partnered with. Literally every one. Yet Rosa is a character we are supposed to like, despite her awful decision-making, inability to hold a relaxed conversation and complete failure to enjoy any single thing the film decides to throw at her. To say she is a hard protagonist to identify with is doing a great disservice to all regularly hard protagonists everywhere.

In great contrast, Wakefield and Acosta get much better written roles, which they imbue with appropriate levels of male and female sizzle, Wakefield in particular showing not insignificant promise. Most of the rest of the film is lost under Rosa's foul mood but occasionally, affability does break out. If it was based on a piece of chick-lit (it occasionally feels like it is) and tightened up in the script department, this has the feeling of something which could not just breakout but soar at the UK box office. At the moment, it is weighed down by far too many complications.

The inaugural Greater Manchester Film Festival (GMFF) runs from 5th to 7th October, with screenings at The Printworks Odeon and Media City.

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