Flowers (2016) TV review

Flowers is a 2015 television series following the lives of Maurice Flowers, a popular writer of children's books called "The Grubs", his wife Deborah, his two children and Shun, a Japanese artist working on the "Grubs" books. When we first see Maurice he is attempting to hang himself, although ultimately failing in this attempt. While it may not seem that depression and suicide would be any kind of subject for a comedy, even one as dark as this, "Flowers" does an impressive job of creating a tone that is unique and consistent.

Writer and director Will Sharpe crafts a tale that blends scenes of beautiful poetry, culture-clash humour, slapstick, and seriousness into something that grips you from the first moments. The opening scenes of Maurice reciting the children's rhymes about "Mr. Grub" while we see artistic close-ups of nature give us a sense that this will be unlike anything else on television. The script features some laugh-out-loud scenes that are as funny as anything in a straight-up comedy, yet also manages to slip imperceptibly into drama and tragedy. The dialogue is sharp and scabrous at times, poetic, realistic, hilarious, yet even in its more outrageous moments it never tips into outright farce, but keeps you engaged with the characters. The cinematography throughout is exceptional, with a strong gothic influence. The music, by Arthur Sharpe, also captures the contrast in tone from light to dark.

Julian Barrett (Mighty Boosh) gives a sympathetic performance as the depressive Mr. Flowers, helpless and alone. Olivia Coleman (Peep Show) plays Mrs. Flowers, oblivious to her husband's suffering, who seems to be almost manically upbeat. Her character goes through a major change towards the end of the series showing Coleman's range. Their adult children Amy and Donald, played by Sophia Di Martino and Daniel Rigby also do an amazing job with their roles, making the family seem like a believable, if dysfunctional, unit. The main cast is rounded out by Shun, played by director Will Sharpe, who has perhaps the funniest scenes in the show with his heavily-accented English and attempts to impart Japanese wisdom to the struggling Flowers family. There are several supporting characters and sub-plots involving the children and Mrs. Flowers.

I highly recommend you to watch this show if you haven't seen it. It might not be to everyone's taste, and will appeal more to you if you appreciate the humour, even more so if you are a fan of gothic literature and more artistic fare, but it is undoubtedly original. With a fantastic cast and script, and exceptionally stylish cinematography this really is a treat.