The end of a relationship can feel like the end of the world. In Bellflower, it is—maybe. Irritating third-act ambiguity overtakes a semi-irritating straight narrative that promos will have you believe is about two friends half-jokingly preparing for a Mad Max-esque apocalypse. It’s not, really. It’s about love, the at-first-sight kind, the kind in which one person says, “I’ll hurt you” and the other says, “No you won’t” and then guess what happens. When things go south, clearly hell must be paid. Bitch set him up, and all that.
The cuckold in question is Woodrow (Evan Glodell, who also wrote, directed, and produced the film for a reported $17,000 using a customized camera). He and his best friend, Aiden (Tyler Dawson), are from Wisconsin and moved to California because “that’s what you do when you’re from Wisconsin.” They don’t appear to have jobs, yet somehow have money to build a flamethrower and trick out cars with more flamethrowers, surveillance equipment, and other stuff you’d need for the end of days. They also have funds to drink, a hobby that makes up even more of their routine than preparing for the apocalypse.
Woodrow’s soulmate is Milly (Jessie Wiseman), a young blonde thing who beats him at a cricket-eating contest and insists on their first date that he take her to the nastiest diner he knows. (Milly is so cool.) So they drive to Texas, bonding forever-for-now during the trip. Milly’s also got a BFF, Courtney (Rebekah Brandes), on whom Aiden is crushing. There are hints that Courtney is the most level-headed of the bunch, even though she carries a gun, but as written she’s little more than wide-eyed eye candy—as well as a source of revenge sex after Milly screws Woodrow over, Aiden be damned.
But their coupling takes place after Woodrow, no tear-in-my-beer type, storms out on Milly and gets hit by a car, suffering partial brain damage. So reality—like the rest of the film—is a big question mark. This is where things go bonkers. Suddenly everyone’s angry and readily violent to a somewhat gasp-inducing but mostly laughable degree. Really, these are the ramifications of a break-up? It’s such early-20s melodrama, but in a way it fits perfectly into a world in which people are drunk all the time, grow hipster beards, and talk to each other like this: “Dude, what’s up?” “Nothing, what’s up? Dude.”
Bellflower’s look has garnered the most attention. Shot on a modified digicam, the film has hypersaturated colors and a grime-coated glaze. It’s interesting, but not revelatory. The acting, even when the characters’ motivations are completely MIA, is natural, a not-unimpressive feat considering the central three are amateurs. (Glodell’s experience is mainly in cinematography.) How far along you stick with this story, then, will depend on your tolerance for idiots—aka freshly minted adults—behaving idiotically. At least Glodell is somewhat aware of what he’s offering: “You know our friends are a bunch of tools, right?” Milly’s roommate asks Courtney. Yes, we all do.