A terrifying and perhaps unsurprising fact reveals that In 2021, London recorded its worst ever death toll from teenage homicides. When writer and director Peter Callow came across the original play ‘Four O’Clock Flowers’ written by Louise Breckon-Richards he realised how affecting a film version could be in its exploration of grief, bereavement, loss, guilt and revenge and decided to adapt it into a feature length film. The film, taking the same actors from the play, tells the haunting story of two mothers and the devastating effects a fatal knife crime had on them. ‘Four O’Clock Flowers’ offers us a naturalistic exploration into their characters as these two mothers learn to accept hard truths and the outcome is as beautiful as it is hard hitting.
The opening scenes introduce the audience to our two protagonists whose connection we do not yet understand; Callow employs slow cuts and soft lighting as he takes us down a quiet London street where lies a memorial for a boy called Akin. It is at this location that the majority of the film is shot and the result is powerful. Mirroring the stage, the lack of diversity in location adds to the focus on the characters and their relationship. The intimacy of the slow cuts and soft piano score accompany the duo for the duration of the film, furthering the storytelling of their unity. For the remainder of the film, the audience are left in a voyeuristic position as the clashing relationship between two broken mother’s gradually grows into a bond of love, strength and motherhood. Of course, the driving force behind the film is the heartbreak and defeat of the death of one son and the imprisonment of another but throughout the film Callow touches on aspects of British society and perhaps the ways in which that plays a part in the tragic events that take place.
Callow effectively establishes a barrier between the two mothers within their first conversation; through the contrast in ideology, mannerisms and character these women radiate hostility and pain. This atmosphere of tension is continued, both Caroline Trowbridge, who plays Anna and and Sophie Cartman who plays Maya exhibit their own compelling avenues of suffering. After a graceful nod to the title of the film, Maya reveals she is putting the flowers down at the time of the event – 10 past 4, there is a smooth cut to a flashback of Anna and her son, a simple mundane interaction which brings the audience back to the horror of the situation through the everyday. . It slowly becomes more apparent that both these characters are victims of loss, and for these two mothers, their shared grief is a vehicle to overcome their differences. It is around half way through that the mothers almost reach the tipping point of emotion, in the blood-moon lit street the truth is revealed and the bond is taken further – two mothers brought together through bereavement.
During the film, Callow throws in various points of concern regarding elements out of the characters control. The discourse surrounding society, money and childhood place them within the core of ‘Four O’Clock Flowers’ and perhaps the final scene solidifies Callow’s desire to criticise the role that society plays in the statistics shown previously. By Anna and Maya placing their children’s clothes on the road, in an attempt to recreate the incident, they intentionally leave out the weapon. In doing so they are highlighting how the knife wasn’t a part of themselves, but a result of the pressure and state of England today. With a sentimental ending to the film, Callow compellingly sends a cocktail of feelings through the audience.
Four O’Clock Flowers is playing at Hastings on Saturday the 15th at 5.45pm followed by an exclusive Q&A with the filmmakers.