“Wildflower” is a coming-of-age drama that chronicles the journey of a teenage girl named Bea (played by Kiernan Shipka), as she navigates the complexities of adolescence while caring for her neurodivergent parents Derek and Sharon. The film covers a lot of ground, spanning Bea‘s childhood, her stay with her aunt and uncle, and her senior year of high school.
In the early scenes of the film, Bea is lying in a hospital bed in a coma. No one knows exactly what happened to her. We hear her speak in the voiceover narration sort of trying to bring us up to speed with events in her life and how she came to be in that state.
The narration accompanied by flashback scenes takes us as far back as her parents got to meet but also details the neurodivergent conditions of both of them. Her father
The film weaves to and fro with the narration and scenes which might feel a bit confusing briefly. But fortunately, it is quite easy to follow and understand requiring not that much of an effort from the viewer.
One of the things that you can’t overlook in “Wildflower” is its focus on family dynamics. You get a front-row seat to catch a glimpse of Bea‘s family structure and its imperfections. The lack of proper communication, the resentments and the confusion seems to be the similarities that the two families share. And that seems to draw them closer to each other.
Right from the onset both Bea‘s grandmothers, Loretta (played by Jacki Weaver) and Peg (played by Jean Smart) do not see eye to eye and often banter over what they believe is right for each of their children.
The film portrays the relationships in either family with authenticity and nuance, highlighting the struggles and triumphs of caring for someone with a neurodivergent condition.
Another strength of the film is its use of the child-turned-caretaker trope. The film in many ways reminds you of Sain Heder‘s “CODA” where a child is seen taking up the responsibility of his disabled parents.
Bea is tasked with caring for her parents, which exposes her to unique challenges and experiences. While the film prioritizes Bea’s perspective, it does not shy away from portraying the experiences of its disabled characters with authenticity giving another perspective for the viewer to view her situation from.
However, the film’s main weakness is its pacing. “Wildflower” covers a lot of ground before getting to the main action, which can feel like throat-clearing. The film gains its footing once it settles into Bea’s recent past, but the introduction can be slow and unfocused. The film could have benefitted from a tighter script that focused more on Bea’s journey and less on peripheral characters and plot points. Interestingly, however, all these other characters at certain points in the film feel very significant to the story and can’t be ignored.
Another weakness of the film is its lack of exploration of the wider implications of neurodivergence. While the film portrays Bea‘s relationship with her parents with nuance and depth, it fails to explore the wider implications of neurodivergence in society. The film could have benefitted from a more nuanced exploration of the challenges faced by neurodivergent individuals and their families. For instance, Bea‘s father Derek’s (played by Dash Mihok) condition was a result of an accident he was in. But not much medical or scientific detail is given as to what exactly happened to cause him to have become neurologically disadvantaged.
However, despite its weaknesses, “Wildflower” is an emotionally resonant film that explores the complexities of family, adolescence, and neurodivergence. The film’s core characters, including Bea, Sharon, and Derek, gain an exciting sharpness and dimension when the film focuses on their tension. Shipka, Hyde, and Mihok deliver standout performances, bringing depth and authenticity and genuineness to their roles that make you connect emotionally with their characters and their situations.
The film also reminds you in many ways that everyone deserves love and that there is someone for everyone.
While it has its moments of strength, the film can feel unfocused at times and struggles to find its footing until it settles into Bea‘s recent past.
At the end of the film, you realize that this film is based on a true and original story and this makes you appreciate it even more.
I would rate this film 7/10. The film’s portrayal of family dynamics and use of the child-turned-caretaker trope makes it a poignant and emotionally resonant film.
“Wildflower” is a film worth watching for its powerful performances and authentic portrayal of true-life persons and situations. The film is available for streaming so make sure you check it out.