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Tuesday, April 30

Broken Flowers

It is time I did Bill Murray justice and reviewed a movie that catches a glimpse of his discreet, poker-faced, complex, surprising talent. Broken Flowers (2005) is a road-movie about a man's journey into his past and about how life easily sneaks up on you while you are comfortably waiting for it to start.

When the story begins, Don Johnston is left by his upset girlfriend, Sherry, and finds himself in the possession of a pink envelope, informing him that he has a son who is nearly 19 years old, and who may be looking for him. His neighbour, Winston (Jeffrey Wright), encourages Don to investigate the matter and even looks into the current locations of the five women most likely to have written the letter. So Don embarks on a journey across America, with maps and flight reservations, in an attempt to visit and confront the former lovers. He meets four of the living women, sleeps with one, gets punched in the face by another's friend, visits the grave of the fifth and buys a sandwich to a boy whom he believes to be his son. Don's questions and hidden agenda scare the boy and he is left standing in the middle of a crossroads, another young man, listening to his kind of music, passing him by, in a Volkswagen Beetle.

The five girlfriends are a symbol of life's different stages, from young Lolita to dead Michelle Pepe, at whose grave Don weeps and seems to finally acknowledge his utter loneliness. It is the journey of a solitary, old Don Juan, who has lived his life, without once asking himself the really important questions. He is rooted in regret and looking back over his life, wonders whether he has ever produced anything substantial and meaningful. The director, Jim Jarmusch, is better at asking the right questions than providing the audience with the desired answers and Bill Murray's deadpan, craggy face perfectly renders the director's own detachment and makes you feel as if you were watching a documentary.

The scenes are full of odd, reminiscent details, engulfed by great music and excellent feminine performances. Bill Murray has an astonishing, calm performance and his character's sadness contrasts with his fascinating appeal to the women he encounters. His loving methods and secret weapons are never revealed but it almost makes you wonder how the love stories with these incredible women really unfolded or even how his life is going to be, now that he has come to terms with his loneliness. The director's great talent of leaving the viewer anxiously wondering about the future adventures of Don Johnston is remarkable and adds up to the distinctive suspense of the story. Jarmusch never once mocks his character, but rather portrays him with gentle humour and lingering emotions. In short, this is a much appreciated film, with sparkling performances and exquisite directing that one must not overlook!

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