Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with first-time filmmaker David Brewer  and discuss his newly completed film, “Nothing in the Flowers .” The movie premiered last night at Headliner’s Music Hall, playing to a packed house.
“Nothing in the Flowers” is, simply put, a story about child abduction. At the start of the film, a young girl has been missing for several weeks with no clue as to where she might be or who has taken her. After brushing aside her mother’s pleas for caution, 11-year-old Amanda Saylor (Tori Ernspiker) is kidnapped on her way to school by the very troubled Cecil Baker (Warren Ray).
Cecil is an interesting character. He is a criminal – he kidnaps young girls – but his motives are not what one would immediately expect. He is not a pedophile; he may not even be evil. His reasons for his actions are more complex than mere violence.
“Nothing in the Flowers” starts out a little weak. A few scenes suffered from poor acting and strained dialogue – Jennifer Shank, who plays Amanda’s mother, seemed out of place in front of the camera, and her lines often came across as recited. In particular, in an early scene in which she warns Amanda to be careful on her way to school, the conversation seems stale and forced.
The film begins to improve, however, during the interaction between Cecil Baker and Detective Keith Saunders (Dale Miller). Saunders is making the rounds asking residents of the area about any suspicious activity they may have seen and does not realize he has happened upon the kidnapper. There is a sudden improvement in the dialogue, and this scene builds tension beautifully while giving us the first serious look at the character of Cecil.
Warren Ray’s performance as the abductor is by far the shining star of this film. He plays his character with a sort of controlled frenzy; even when he is calm, we can see that there is something fighting underneath the surface. We view Cecil with disgust, for his crime is heinous, but there is perhaps a bit of pity to be felt for him as well.
Dale Miller is a pleasure to watch as well. While he doesn’t much look like your typical movie detective, he settles comfortably into his role and becomes completely believable. Unfortunately, this character only made it into a few scenes, so not as much of him is seen as may be preferred.
Following the above-mentioned scene, the pace of the film picks up significantly, and the unfolding action becomes almost captivating. Tori Ernspiker ends up giving a decent performance as a young girl in captivity; while her dialogue delivery needs some work, she played well off of Ray’s performance, all of which culminates in the exciting, yet perhaps slightly dramatic, climax.
Visually, the film is quite interesting, and several shots in particular stood out as being emotionally evocative: a creepy children’s mask; Amanda in the dirt covering her face with her hands; a young girl gently placing her hand upon her father’s.
The camera was continuously handheld with the intention of lending a voyeuristic quality to the tone of the film, and this was effective to a large degree. It may have been somewhat overused, however - certain scenes (such as the one in the kitchen) would have benefited from a still shot, if only to give us a respite from the constant motion and to lend greater effect to the scenes in which it is most necessary.
Though far from perfect, my reaction to “Nothing in the Flowers” is overall positive. While often-weak dialogue and occasionally poor acting left its mark on certain scenes, David Brewer manages to ultimately deliver compelling images, a suspenseful mood, and an enthralling narrative. It is a very worthwhile first effort, and I look forward to seeing what he presents in the future.
There is as yet no word on any future showings of this film, but I will be sure to let readers know when and where there is an opportunity to view it.
Image courtesy of David Brewer