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Harrison's Flowers

Harrison's Flowers

A penetrating drama heightened by the hellish Croatian civil war makes Harrison's Flowers riveting in its connections to the recent Daniel Pearl tragedy.  With a strong emotional presence from Andie MacDowell we get into the brutality of war reporting, in a surreal tale of searching and survival.

Instead of the Wall Street Journal of which Pearl was a noted reporter, MacDowell's Sarah Lloyd and husband Harrison (David Strathairn) work for Newsweek, the latter being a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist.  Set in late 1991, Harrison's Flowers opens with a more family minded Lloyd wanting to put his camera away, telling boss Mr. Brubeck (Alun Armstrong) that he needs to give more time to Sarah and his two young children.

But Brubeck sends him to cover some developing "ethnic skirmishes" in Yugoslavia.  Harrison doesn't want to miss the birthday of a son (Scott Anton) who has grown apart from him, but the last assignment has a calamitous outcome.  Sarah finds out from gaping stares without being told of Harrison's reported death.

Sarah has understandable feelings as she tries to keep things together, fixated on CNN's programs.  Thinking that Harrison may still be alive from a videotape of a new report, she is quickly off to war torn Eastern Europe.  But the characterizations and Chouraqui's intent is no Collateral Damage, as Harrison's Flowers proves much more involving even as it stretches a bit.

This French production strongly imparts, like Black Hawk Down and We Were Soldiers, a documentary realism of war as Chouraqui uses the Czech Republic locations near Prague very well.  In harrowing stark fashion, a tank and escalating fighting nearly have Sarah beaten and left for dead.

Compelled to find the truth amid the grotesque and smoky landscape, Sarah links with two of Harrison's colleagues as she heads on a dark Yellow Brick Road to a place called Vukovar.

An undervalued Adrien Brody is a brash, impulsive American Kyle and Brendon Gleeson puts some Irish bonhomie to Stevenson.  As a New York co-worker of Harrison, Yeager, Elias Koteas (ironically of Collateral Damage) figures prominently in the shifting flow and mood with narration that sheds light on the fateful proceedings.

In spite of its questionable tinkering with nebulous overtones, Harrison's Flowers rarely wanes from the thoughtful intensity of MacDowell.  This English speaking film benefits enormously from the rich photography of villages and countryside.  But slaughter and combat dominate this tale of journalistic courage and spousal faith and dedication.

Harrison's Flowers

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