August 19th, 2022
MOVIE: NOTHING BUT FLOWERS
STARRING: HAYDEN VAUGHN, AUGUST MEDINA, KELLI ANDERSON, AUSTIN BOSLEY
DIRECTED BY: NICOLAS MERRIAS
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Nothing but Flowers is the feature debut by director Nicholas Merrias. It begins as Max (August Medina) tells his boyfriend Ash (Hayden Vaughn) that he has been accepted to a graduate program in New York. The problem: both guys currently live in L.A. Ash is in shock, disappointed with Max’s decision, and coldly announces that this must mean the end of their relationship. Max, clearly upset by Ash’s response, asks Ash to come to New York with him. Ash isn’t willing to make that change.
This is the story of young love (they’ve only been together for a year) that has apparently not heard of long distance relationships or Zoom. Facetime is mentioned briefly later in the film but that doesn’t seem to be a solution. No, this couple is tearfully calling it quits. Part of the problem with this narrative is that we don’t learn much about the quality of their relationship prior to the big announcement. Hadn’t Max thought about discussing the locations of his college applications with Ash? Their living situation is also a bit curious as they live in Ash’s apartment which is filled with vinyl records and DVDs (I’m not sure how many young guys would have album covers of Heart, Carole King, and Kim Carnes on their walls but we can only guess that Ash has a retro bone in his body) but none of this tells us much about the couple.
We do learn that Ash previously dated women and then had a recent breakup with another man. He also has a best friend named Noel (played quite deliciously by Nina Kova in the film’s standout performance.) This again doesn’t give us much to go on about Ash and Max. Rather the film does offer a number of long discussions concerning the ultimate fate of the relationship. It’s clear that Merrias is influenced by some of the great talky couple films of the past such as Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, and even Jean-Luc Godard’s French classic Breathless. But all of those films go deeper in their discussions and offer richer visual techniques to open up long dialogue scenes. There is one scene when Merrias seems to be emulating Linklater and shows some flair with a moving camera as the men hike to their “favorite spot.” Most of the film though is shot with a lot of close-ups on both actors. This isn’t a distraction, as both men are quite attractive, and appropriately subtle in their reactions towards each other. However, there’s not a lot of shot variety which may be due to the film’s reported $20,000 budget. I’ll give in on that point.
The biggest issue with the film’s production is the sound recording. Room tones vary when different actors are speaking, creating an unusual background energy. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that much of the dialogue was likely re-recorded and dubbed in post-production. Again, this might be a budget issue so I’ll give the filmmakers some slack.
The other major problem is that Nothing But Flowers doesn’t do much that is particularly original. There are questionable choices in the script, such as having Ash spend the day with Noel on Max’s last day in L.A. But when a surprise party is thrown for Max that night, we’re led to question who some of these people are, especially when it was discussed earlier that they don’t have many friends. It is slightly amusing though that most of the people at the party don’t know each other, providing a bit of levity to a mostly somber story. Ash also makes an interesting travel plan with Noel but doesn’t seem to consider that the money for the trip could be spent visiting Max in New York.
The performances are okay and at times effectively emotional. The film is also well-intentioned and would likely appeal to younger gay couples who may be struggling with their varying levels of commitment. For this older reviewer, though, it just seems like they’re making rushed, inconceivable decisions, leaving a cold feeling about the narrative’s predicament.
All involved in making Nothing But Flowers can at least know that there is potential here, where a more polished script and larger budget would help improve the finished product. For now, this delivery is just okay. I can at least recommend checking out the aforementioned movies- Linklater and Haigh often get relationship drama right- then perhaps viewing Nothing But Flowers might give you a different perspective.
NOTHING BUT FLOWERS IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FOR RENTAL ON AMAZON PRIME.
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Dan Pal