Ane (Nagore Aranburu) lives her life of quiet desperation one bland day at a time. Stuck in a loveless marriage and grappling with early on-set menopause, the childless Ane sighs. She always thought there would be more. More life, more love, more music, more dancing, more… flowers. And right on cue, they arrive, a beautiful bouquet of flowers just for Ane.
But the bouquet is not from Ane’s husband, Ander (Egoitz Lasa). Must be a mix-up, Ane surmises. A week passes, and another bouquet arrives, and another the following week. There is no mix-up; Ane has a secret admirer.
He is Beñat (Josean Bengoetxea), a crane operator at the construction company where Ane is a secretary. Beñat is also married—to Lourdes (Itziar Ituño), a tollbooth operator with a child from another marriage. And though his marriage is not as prickly as Ane’s, it is no Hallmark card and these secret presents clearly give him a sense of satisfaction that he hasn’t felt in some time.
But then Beñat dies in an automobile accident, and Ane’s flowers stop arriving. Ane puts two and two together and returns the favor, placing fresh flowers at Beñat’s crash site every week. Lourdes, who is trying to sweep everything that reminds her of her late husband under the rug and move on, is frustrated by the appearance of the flowers. She visits the florist to demand that they reveal the identity of the secret admirer, but they refuse. Beñat’s mother, Tere (Itziar Aizpuru), tries to help Lourdes as best as she can, but Lourdes finds Tere an equally frustrating reminder of Beñat’s absence. Death leaves holes in the lives of the living, and all three women deal with the hole Beñat left behind in the only way they can.
Set in the lush and picturesque Basque Country of Spain, Flowers (Loreak) is the second film from the directing team Jon Garaño and Jose Mari Goenaga—their first, For 80 Days (2010), was not distributed in the U.S. The touch they bring to the material is both gentle and distant. Flowers is a movie about how the living deal with the death of a loved one and the expanse of time it takes to deal with that loss. Flowers unassumingly covers years’ worth of relationships and emotions, constantly returning to that one incident time and time again like a nagging feeling.
But nagging feelings aren’t always pleasant, and they aren’t always impressive. Flowers is a pretty movie with a sweet sentiment at its core, but Garaño, Goenaga, and co-writer Aitor Arregi’s character development is ultimately anemic. Coupled with a story that is so languidly paced, the climactic reveal ends up being ho-hum at best. Though that moment has a nice Tarantino-esque touch where the same information is presented twice from two different perspectives, there is nothing surprising about it. And in a case like this, a little surprise wouldn’t hurt anybody.
Directed by Jon Garaño, Jose Mari Goenaga
Written by Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño, Jose Mari Goenaga
Produced by Xabier Berzosa, Iñaki Gomez, Iñigo Obeso
Starring: Nagore Aranburu, Egoitz Lasa, Josean Bengoetxea, Itziar Ituño
Music Box Films, Not rated, Running time 99 minutes, Premiered Sept. 22, 2014 at the Donostia-San Sebastián International Film Festival.