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The Sunflower

REVIEW: ‘Wildflower’ follows true events of director, his family

Courtesy of IMDb

Everyone’s childhood is different, that’s a given, but unusual circumstances can play into that, especially if an individual has a physical condition that keeps them from raising their kids on their own; that’s the story behind “Wildflower.”

Inspired by true events, “Wildflower,” starring Kiernan Shipka, is a coming-of-age movie that follows Bambi “Bea” Johnson from birth to graduation.

Bea has two neurodivergent parents that struggle with help from extended family members, including Bea’s aunt and Sharon’s older sister, Joy.

Director Matt Smulker based Bea on his niece, Christina, and his relationship with her.

Smulker hoped that the original short film on Christina’s experiences would help his own niece apply for colleges.

Once the film’s screenwriter, Jana Savage, saw the earlier clips of the documentary, she decided to create a feature-length narrative now known as “Wildflower.”

When her mom, Sharon, can’t take care of herself and doesn’t want help from extended family, it is up to Bea to become the sole caretaker at the age of ten.

In the 2022 film, Sharon was born with an intellectual disability. Bea’s dad, Derek, was hit by a drunk driver at the age of 12, causing brain damage.

After Bea crashes her father’s truck to find her runaway dog, she is sent to live with her aunt for the summer. The aunt attempts to adopt Bea, which Sharon disagrees with.

Bea turns to run away (figuratively and literally) from her problems and joins her private school’s track team.

When everything goes downhill for Bea, from friendships to relationships to family problems, Bea turns to alcohol as a new coping mechanism.

At the beginning of the movie, we see Bea rolled into a hospital without explanation.  I liked how “Wildflower” wanted to build suspense and let the audience play a game of “connect the dots” to create suspense as to why Bea is hospitalized.

Overall, this movie was funny, scary and sad all at the same time, but it has a wholesome ending, as Bea reconciles with her friends and family just in time for graduation and college.

“Wildflower” offers a lesson about remaining resilient through hard times and the importance of holding onto dreams. “Wildflower” demonstrates that individuals should take care of themselves before putting time and energy into taking care of others.

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About the Contributor
Jacinda Hall, Podcast Editor
Jacinda Hall is the podcast editor for The Sunflower. Hall is a junior majoring in communications with an emphasis in journalism and minoring in English literature. Her favorite quote is by Kurt Cobain: “I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.” In her free time, Hall likes to go to the gym, crochet and make fancy beverages. Hall's pronouns are she/her.

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    Jodi BauerFeb 5, 2024 at 6:25 am

    Wildflower was a very enjoyable film. It has shown the audience a realistic view of what life is like for the daughter.
    At age ten looking after her own parents is an unbelievable burden. It also depict s how much she must have loved them.
    And it raises the question about what is the right decision to make when a child is born
    into those circumstances.

    Reply