This is a Film Review of Loreak (Flowers).
Loreak (Flowers) is a Basque film directed by Jon Garaño and Jose Mari Goenaga. Loreak is too deceptively simple a title for a film that has achieved a couple of notable firsts – as the premier Basque-language film nominated for Goya Award for Best Film and for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. Simplicity is present throughout the movie, yet this same trait highlights the profundity and power of Loreak’s message.
The story of Loreak centers heavily on elegant floral arrangements and ordinary women, yet it is above and beyond elegant floral arrangements and ordinary women. In reality, Loreak provides a glimpse of humanity in times of desolation.
The opening scene of Loreak is a series of seemingly random and unrelated images: close-up shot of a wet bouquet of flowers, a woman in the midst of downpour, an old woman in a dark room, another woman riding a train on a rainy night, a car on the side of a road, sheep grazing on grass, and crane in a construction site. These images begin to fall into place as the story of three women slowly unfolds, like watching several layers of rose petals in bloom.
The first woman, Ane (Nagore Aranburu), is trapped in a dead-end job and a loveless and childless marriage with Ander (Egoitz Lasa). To compound her misery, she learns that she has early-onset menopause. The second woman is Lourdes (Itziar Ituño), a humorless tollbooth attendant who is married to a kind man named Beñat (Josean Bengoetxea). Lastly, there is Tere (Itziar Aizpuru), Beñat’s overbearing and outspoken mother.
The unremarkable and almost-boring lives of the women of Loreak are the opposite of the fourth character, the fourth woman – the flowers. While the women look downtrodden, the flowers are amazingly gorgeous and pulsing with life. While the women wear mostly drab clothing, the flowers exhibit their beauty in colors that exceed the Crayola palette. While the women mostly keep to themselves, the flowers verbalize thoughts in messages that can fill a Dostoevsky book.
The women of Loreak lead separate lives until an event irreversibly connected their fates. And this serves as the turning point of the movie, from being bleak to being bleaker but thrilling.
Nagore Aranburu is lovely as Ane. Her genteel nature, litheness and hair endeared her to me. I wanted to have a haircut like hers as soon as she appeared on screen. Itziar Ituño’s Lourdes is Ane’s antithesis. Whereas Ane is sweet as honey, Lourdes is sour as acetic acid. Their differences in character make their scenes together tick like a bomb waiting to explode. Itziar Aizpuru’s Tere is my favorite character, maybe because I have no mother-in-law to speak of, or maybe because I like her misplaced thoughtfulness.
Loreak is all about Ane at the beginning so I was disoriented when the movie shifts from Ane’s story to Lourdes’, and I thought maybe there are standalone films within Loreak, just like Relatos Salvajes (Wild Tales) that has six. But Loreak proved to be more deceptive than I thought, and I enjoyed the continuity of the story. Although the movie became a little too predictable after that little surprise, the scenes towards the end tie all the loose ends together into a graceful ribbon worthy of the flowers displayed in the movie.
Contrary to popular belief that has lasted centuries, Loreak shows that sometimes, flowers are just only flowers, nothing more than a demonstration of a simple gesture. However, Loreak offers more than that because it also deals with human emotions and psychology. It shows how individuals react in the midst of crises and how they cope afterwards. It does not have extreme emotional highs and lows of a typical (Filipino) dramatic film, but the silence that reigns in its vital yet nuanced scenes speaks volumes. And that is a sign of a great film.
Stray Observations (might contain spoilers):
- The first copy of Loreak I watched is in Basque. It took me 15 seconds to realize that I did not understand anything. I panicked a little because I thought that my Spanish has deteriorated to a negative level. I ended up watching a Basque copy but dubbed in Spanish with no subtitle.
- I have not confirmed this online but I think “3 urte geroago” means three years after and “2 urte geroago” means two years after.
- This needs to be repeated. Nagore Aranburu is beautiful and has perfect hair!
- I learned that there are universities that pay for hospitalization of patients, and in return the universities use their eventual corpses for medical classes. After five years, the families get the ashes of these “leased” corpses.
- I felt bad when Lourdes threw all the potted flowering plants into garbage bags. Sayang.