Thursday, March 16, 2023

A teen copes with disabled parents

   What happens when the intellectually gifted child of intellectually disabled parents must adjust to adolescence?
    Wildflower attempts to answer that question by focusing on the life of Bea (Kiernan Shipka), a high school senior who’s understandably fearful about leaving her parents untended. 
    Oddly and perhaps needlessly the movie opens with Bea hospitalized in a coma from which she offers intermittent narration of a story that unfolds mostly in flashback.
    Director Matt Smuckler presumably wanted to create suspense about how Bea arrived in her unconscious state. We’ll eventually learn.
    Bea’s parents (Samantha Hyde and Dash Mihok) are presented as big-hearted, loving devotees of Jesus, who express their faith without  self-consciousness. 
   Hyde’s Sharon was born with her disability; Mihok’s Derek, the more capable of the two, suffered brain damage when, as a child, he was hit by a drunk driver. 
   Jean Smart (as Sharon’s mother) and Jacki Weaver (as Derek’s mom) are a bit underutilized as bickering in-laws. 
   As the proceedings advance, Smuckler increasingly focuses on Bea’s adolescence: relationships with her first boyfriend (Charlie Plummer) and her best friend (Kannon Omachi), another outlier.
    The more the story concentrates on Bea, the more it flirts with teen-movie cliche. A snooty high school girl must receive her comeuppance. Bea excels at track. Bumps arise on the romance road.
   The main question: Should Bea apply to colleges or remain home to care for her parents?
  Not much is done to flesh out the character roster. Reid Scott plays the over-protective husband of Bea’s equally over-protective sister (Alexandra Daddario). An inquisitive social worker (Erika Alexander) doesn’t add a lot.
 Unfortunately, the story tilts away from some of its richest potential. The movie might have benefited from showing us more about how Sharon and Derek struggle to live as they wish.
   Wildflower eventually gets serious but this might be a case in which a mix of comedy and drama sometimes cheats one at the expense of the other.


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