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.