Blood and Roses

Harrison’s Flowers

Directed by Elie Chouraqui

(Andie MacDowell, David Strathairn, Elias Koteas, Adrien Brody)


For the past nine years, I’ve sheltered myself from all war movies because watching folks constantly blam the heads off people in the name of getting land really pissed me off. But the idealistic hippie in me has since died, so I saw Harrison’s Flowers. And I’m glad I did.

Sarah Lloyd’s (Andie MacDowell) got to find her Pulitzer-winning photojournalist husband (David Strathairn as Harrison), in 1991’s war-torn Yugoslavia. Word is that Harrison is dead, but Sarah knows better because she saw his back in a CNN report. So off to the battlefields she goes.

And, oh, the carnage! After Sarah’s car gets tanker-smashed, it’s all bullet-dodging from there.

Nearly everything horrific that can happen in Yugoslavia happens to Sarah. Her traveling companions are shot down and she’s confronted with a rapist. She must also cross enemy lines on her stomach (this scene has excellent use of silence — the tension made me want to yell: “Put your camouflage hood on, idiot!”). It was these obsticulous bursts of action that set the movie’s forward-hurdling pace.

Through love-induced intuition Sarah does find Harrison (in a burning building, no less). But their reunion is not as predictable as it could be — the result is not warm and fuzzy.

The scenery, shot in Prague and the Czech Republic, is a netherworld where death and defense rule in blown-out remnants. Dead, raped bodies are in full view for Sarah and her rag-ma-tag journalist buddies to take pictures of, and they do so with a dead distance in their eyes to keep from going insane (though this doesn’t work for everyone).

The movie gets inside of journalists without worshiping the profession or relying on stock stereotypes (though the film gives a slick plug for Newsweek, whose name is dually noted at an award ceremony that Harrison and Sarah attend).

Even I, with my anti-war leanings, found the action sequences in Harrison’s Flowers to be engaging and necessary.

The characters and the obstacles make the movie satisfying without resorting to the predictable.

– Monica LaBelle


Harrison’s Flowers opens this Friday.