BLACK FLOWERS (a.k.a. Atomic Apocalypse) **** UK 2018 Dir: Martin Gooch. 108 mins
A pleasant day at the beach for a couple (Krista De Mille, Ron Rogge) and their teenage daughter (Andrea Sweeney Blanco) is tarnished by a Nuclear blast at the start of writer-director Martin Gooch’s idiosyncratic vision of the apocalypse. Two years later, phone companies and electricity are things of the past, the family are offered a safe refuge courtesy of a probably-dodgy stranger (Jesus Lloveras) and Rogge dies, reminding the two women in his last moments that, as always, they are in charge. They spend the rest of the movie finding mutants, religious cultists (“Cos there’s nothing better to do!”) and reminders of past luxuries like shampoo and toothpaste.
Beginning and ending on a beach, the movie’s episodic structure shifts tones to encompass everything from a Monty Python quote (“just a flesh wound!”) to quirky one-liners: “When you open a window at 60, it feels like you’re holding a boob!” At heart, it’s an unusually female-led testament to fighting for what you believe and not giving up hope. The protagonists are all too aware that Nuclear War has given them hitherto impossible quality time together, despite the plethora of threats they face: cannibalism, false saviours and a plethora of sexist or useless men. De Mille’s performance runs the full gamut of despair, nostalgia, determination and strength while she learns to acknowledge the need to let go of the remnants of an old existence and embrace the new, however alienating and imposing it might be. Its mood and approach better suited to the title BLACK FLOWERS than the old-school B movie-esque ATOMIC APOCALYPSE, this is suitably misanthropic – with humanity likened to an STD that won’t go away, a small patch of cirrhosis on the Earth – but has a rare heart and characters you really root for.
Review by Steven West