out of Five
Running time: 100
Watchable British drama enlivened by engaging performances, a terrific soundtrack and a strong sense of location, though the script is occasionally both frustrating and confusing.
What's it all about?
Directed by John Roberts, Day of the Flowers stars Eva Birthistle as Rosa, a headstrong, politically active Glaswegian woman, who impulsively steals her father's ashes and travels to Cuba in order to spread them on the spot where he fell in love with their mother, alongside her bombshell sister Ailie (Charity Wakefield) and her fellow activist friend Conway (Bryan Dick). However, the girls quickly fall foul of Cuban authorities and when Rosa gets into trouble with a shady local lothario (Christopher Simpson), she receives help from kindly ballet teacher Tomas (Carlos Acosta).
Eva Birthistle is excellent as Rosa, managing to keep her sympathetic, even though she's often wrong-headed, bad tempered and irritating. In addition, Wakefield is something of a revelation as Ailie (she looks sensational in a stylish retro playsuit) and the film has a lot of fun with reversing expectations where her character is concerned. There's also strong support from Carlos Acosta (who has great chemistry with Birthistle) and good work from an under used Bryan Dick (one of Britain's best unsung actors), while Christopher Simpson is suitably shifty as Ernesto.
The film makes terrific use out of its authentic Cuban locations, creating a strong sense of place, aided by some superb cinematography from Vernon Layton (a beautiful shot of some wild horses running was apparently captured on the spot) and a cracking Cuban music soundtrack. In addition, Roberts orchestrates some delightful scenes, such as a nightclub sequence where Tomas twirls an inexperienced Rosa around the dance floor.
The main problem with the film is that the script occasionally feels like it's had large chunks hacked out of it, leaving it both frustrating and confusing, particularly when it comes to some baffling final-reel revelations and some chopped down flashback moments. This makes it harder to engage with the characters on an emotional level, because we're not exactly sure what's going on. (On a similar note, Dick's part is so underwritten that he could almost be removed from the story entirely with no significant impact).
Despite some script issues in the final act, Day of the Flowers is an enjoyable drama with a terrific soundtrack, some impressive location work and superb performances from Birthistle and Wakefield. Worth seeing.