Sunday, July 14, 2024

“SHE LOVED BLOSSOMS MORE”

THE STORY – Three brothers build an unusual time machine in order to bring their long-dead mother back to life. The experiments tend to go awry, causing the brothers to descend into a psychedelic hellscape where the past and present fuse in a comedic yet disturbing exploration of grief.

THE CAST – Panos Papadopoulos, Julio Katsis, Aris Balis, Sandra Sarafanova, Alexia Kaltsiki & Dominique Pinon

THE TEAMYannis Veslemes (Director/Writer) & Dimitris Emmanouilidis (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 86 Minutes


Roughly one-third of the way into Yannis Veslemes’ delirious and trippy “She Loved Blossoms More,” a young man named Hedgehog (Panos Papadopoulos) fingers a chicken while having sex with his brother’s “girl” (a lively Sandra Sarafanova) in a backyard wading pool. They’re both under the influence, in a state that transcends high, as most of the film’s characters tend to be over the course of its runtime. But for once, this is no hallucination (And there are plenty of those). Hedgehog is, indeed, shoving his finger inside of a chicken, but not in the way you might imagine: This particular hen has had its head removed thanks to a failed time machine experiment, and all that remains are its legs, torso, and a circular, gooey, green portal sitting where its head should be. The aroused Hedgehog repeatedly prods at this threshold without a thought, leaving us with many of our own.

The lone concrete conclusion that “She Loved Blossoms More” does provide is why Hedgehog and his brothers, Dummy (Julio Katsis) and Paris (Aris Balis), spend their days placing a variety of animals in their late mother’s armoire before pressing a series of buttons that make the room – a shabby laboratory that was once where someone slept – light up like an epileptic’s nightmare. Their goal with this machine is to bring their mother, who died in a car accident years ago, back to life by any means necessary. Of course, this process requires practice before it can be perfected, which is why we see the aforementioned chicken lose its head, a pig turn inside out, and a turtle vanishes into a cloud of smoke. It’s not quite the sort of operation that could turn Christopher Abbott into a goat-man, but it’s doing its best.

You’re on the right track if you’ve found yourself imagining Veslemes’ science-fiction rumination on grief with a dash of psychedelic-infused body horror as something of a cross between “The Fly” and “Hereditary,” with a dash of Jonathan Glazer’s “Birth” to taste. Though it doesn’t come close to any of those titles – not thematically, stylistically, nor narratively – “She Loved Blossoms More” does manage to manufacture its own unsettling aura of death amidst its wonky, oft-dreamlike world.

Its main hangup is in execution. As one character tells another: “You’re a membrane. The person is hiding underneath.” Not only can this quip apply to each of Veslemes’ creations, sketched outlines that are never shaded in, but his film, too. It’s the most ambitious work of his career, and it might be the best, but it still shows clear signs of a similar incoherence from which his previous features suffered. 2014’s “Norway,” a vampiric folk tale about a bloodsucker who needs to dance to stay alive, neglected a true storyteller’s touch in favor of startling images, half-baked political messaging, and an inability to recognize when the party was over. Veslemes’ follow-up work, providing one story to the 2018 anthology, “The Field Guide to Evil,” was more traditional horror, though it ran long and never went to the lengths it could have in terms of its scares nor its overall goal: To give logic to mankind’s darkest fears (Notably, it requires logic to do so, something “The Field Guide to Evil” lacked in abundance).

“She Loved Blossoms More” somehow falls in the middle in many ways while being superior to both. It’s hardly fleshed out, despite its penchant for speaking its purpose into existence rather than showing the audience why it should buckle in for its biggest swings; at one point, it explicitly notes, “You can bring back the dead… As long as the living want to.” But do these brothers actually wish for their mother to return? Or are they simply holding onto a past they can’t pull themselves away from? Answers to such questions are never really offered, something most audiences should deem more of a feature than a bug, but to what end are they even explored?

To its credit, the film is a technical marvel, a sensory overload that rarely distracts from its structure – though perhaps that’s because the structure does a fine job of handling that itself. In addition to his duties as auteur, Veslemes provides the ever-plodding, dread-induced score that remains in the background for almost the entire film, pausing occasionally to give Nikos Exarhos’ sound design a moment to breathe. Christos Karamanis’ cinematography and the work of production designer Elena Vardava are what really shines; Vardava gives the brother’s home an atmosphere that only the maddest of scientists could love, while Karamanis’ camera travels around the house’s grounds like a fly on the wall, but one that commands more attention than the typical gnat. The scene is often enveloping, something that can only be captured with the intention Karamanis brings to the table here. If only it were as successful a film as it is a painting.

Oddly enough, a thematic throughline of sorts could ostensibly be drawn from “She Loved Blossoms More” to Jane Schoenbrun’s “I Saw the TV Glow.” The latter, which was released on VOD on June 14, dedicates itself to capturing the evolution of time and memories through the lens of transgender identity, as well as fandom, while Veslemes aims his gaze at something slightly more direct: The exact nature of time, and the fact that things tend not to be as they seemed once we look back at them through rose-colored, grieving glasses. “I Saw the TV Glow” features a pivotal moment where a character experiences that exact realization. Still, it’s a broader, far more sophisticated feature, while “She Loved Blossoms More” clamors to hammer home the notion that you can get something back if you wait for the right time to do so (Just not too long).

“Perfect is the enemy of good,” Dummy tells Hedgehog after the latter tells the former, “I’m good,” in relation to yet another hit, line, or injection. One more telegraphed message for good measure, it seems, as this is precisely the film’s problem: It so clearly itches to be definitive about grief while masquerading as an ambiguous examination of the torturous emotion when somewhere in between would’ve worked just fine. In fact, middling might be the perfect way to describe “She Loved Blossoms More.” It should have strove to be something more elevated; perhaps a trip in the brother’s time chamber could rejigger its design and do it some necessary favors.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Visually haunting and impeccably designed. A technical feast causing what might have otherwise been a difficult film to stomach – narratively, that is, despite some of its many gross-out set pieces – to be interesting to look at, at the very least.

THE BAD - It fails to flesh out its principle goals from a storytelling perspective, and only one of its characters (Samantha, played by Sandra Sarafanova) is even remotely fleshed out. In other words, it comes up short as a movie while succeeding as a painting.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 5/10

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

Related Articles

Stay Connected

101,150FollowersFollow
101,150FollowersFollow
9,315FansLike
9,315FansLike
4,686FollowersFollow
4,686FollowersFollow

Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Visually haunting and impeccably designed. A technical feast causing what might have otherwise been a difficult film to stomach – narratively, that is, despite some of its many gross-out set pieces – to be interesting to look at, at the very least.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>It fails to flesh out its principle goals from a storytelling perspective, and only one of its characters (Samantha, played by Sandra Sarafanova) is even remotely fleshed out. In other words, it comes up short as a movie while succeeding as a painting.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>5/10<br><br>"SHE LOVED BLOSSOMS MORE"