Harrison's Flowers

Harrison's Flowers is supposed to be a movie about unconditional love, and the lengths that somebody is willing to go because of it. Instead, Harrison's Flowers is two movies, a sappy love story and a stark portrayal of war. The two do not mesh well together, which leaves the overall effect of the film somewhat baffling. What exactly is the point of this film? Elie Chouraqui (The Liars, The Groundhogs) wrote and adapted the movie with Didier Le Pecheur (Don't Let Me Die on a Sunday, News from the Good Lord) from the book Le Diable a l'Avantage by Isabel Ellsen, about Sarah Lloyd (Andie MacDowell, Town & Country, The Muse) and her search for her husband Harrison (David Strathairn, A Map of the World, Limbo). Both work for Newsweek, and Harrison is a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist. In the past, he could go into any situation and snap photographs, but now he feels different. He worries that he will not be there for his wife and young children, so he decides to give up his career. Of course this means that is boss sends him out for one last shoot, this time to war-torn Yugoslavia.

Sarah receives news that Harrison is dead, but there is no body as evidence. Everybody around her decides to move on with life, but she steadfastly clings to the idea that he is alive, and that he needs her. She will only accept that he is dead once she sees a body. After seeing somebody whom she believes is Harrison on television, she decides to fly to Yugoslavia to personally save him. Sarah has no idea of the turmoil taking place there. Eric Kyle (Adrien Brody, The Affair of the Necklace, Bread and Roses), a photojournalist associate of Harrison's, does, and decides to help her. They need to journey through battlefields, sniper-infested highways, and other dangers in what surely is some metaphor for the journey of Orpheus. Through all the blood, violence, and gore, Sarah treks on, oblivious to her own safety. Even when other journalists are leaving some vicious battles, she resolutely goes forward.

This would be strong role for MacDowell if written a little better. Chouraqui goes a little too far with some of the combat scenes, especially given the intended audience of Harrison's Flowers. Instead of making Sarah appear brave and loving, she comes off as stupid. It's difficult enough imagining anybody surviving in some of these conditions, much less a woman whose mind is set on one thing. If there were scenes of Sarah trying to deal with the happenings around her, her character would seem stronger. Too much time also goes towards the relationship between Harrison and Sarah. A decent amount of time passes before Harrison leaves for Yugoslavia, and this is to give the audience an emotional attachment to Strathairn so that they will miss him too. The downside is it adds a lot of time to a movie that probably should use some more aggressive editing. The one question looming over the entire movie is whether or not Harrison is alive. By the end of the film, no one really cares one way or another.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
2 hours, 10 minutes, Rated R for strong war violence and gruesome images, pervasive language and brief drug use.

Back to Movies