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I just got back from a holiday in Toronto where I had the pleasure of attending the film festival there. One of the films I ended up seeing was Haven, which I knew very little about beforehand. What an absolute gem of a movie it turned out to be. Similar in structure to Amores Perros, the tale unfolds from different perspectives. All actors played their parts well but there were three who deserve special mention. Victor Razuk as Fritz and Zoe Saldana as Andrea are definite names to watch in future. However, Orlando Bloom was the real genuine surprise here. I don't think I have seen a more heartbreaking performance all year. The disintegration of his character - Shy - provides much of the emotional centre of Frank E. Flowers gripping first feature length movie. He is a director who is going to be talked about a great deal in the years to come. All in all , I would have no hesitation in recommending this powerful, though somewhat dark movie, to any discerning film-goer.
I also saw the world premiere of Haven on Saturday at the Toronto film
fest and all I can say is that I was completely blown away by it. I
don't know what I was expecting when I went into the theatre but what I
got was something that kept my interest peaked through out the entire
two hours and had me filled with questions until the very end.
Every actor involved in Haven was perfectly chosen and held their own with spectacular performances. Personally, I think that Bill Paxton is at the top of his game right now and Orlando Bloom is just to die for as Shy, a young fisherman on the Island. Zoe Saldana had me in tears with her performance and I can't wait to see it again when it finally comes to theaters. I think it's fair to say that Haven will put Frank E. Flowers on the map and he has earned it with this movie. Unbelievable. I loved it.
I saw the second screening of this film, at the Toronto Film Festival.
It reminded me a little bit like the film "Traffic" with a hint of
Quentin Tarantino. The movie threads together multiple story lines and
shifts back and forth through time.
Bill Paxton has a great performance as a shady business man who escapes with this daughter to the Cayman Islands.
Orlando Bloom's character is the most endearing. I found I could relate to his character the most. Shy (Bloom) was the classic boy from the wrong side of the tracks, who is completely in love with the rich girl, Andrea (Zoe Saldana).
Zoe Saldana has a great performance as well. Her character goes from a sweet girl who makes a complete 180 turn to a druggie /(how to put this politically correct) very easy girl.
Overall I really enjoyed the movie. Frank E. Flowers did a really great job with his debut. The story was really intriguing and the setting was beautiful. A really well done film.
I count myself lucky to have been able to see this movie at the Toronto
Film Festival where it premiered. I thought the movie to be a brilliant
look at the culture, something we as Americans don't usually see. The
acting was wonderful from everyone in it. I enjoyed the way it was
edited together, following separate story lines individually, then
bringing them together in the end. I was completely surprised that this
film was not immediately grabbed up and sent to screens everywhere.
Then again, perhaps it was just too deep for some. I had no trouble
following the action, although I've heard comments that some people
found it confusing. Perhaps they weren't paying attention...
Hopefully without giving anything away for those who haven't seen it yet... I felt so terribly bad for Shy at the end of the movie.
I can't wait for Haven to hit big screens everywhere. I want all my friends to see it! BRAVO to everyone involved in its production.
UPDATE (Oct. 2006): I see Haven is FINALLY coming to theatres... However I have heard that the movie went through a MAJOR re-edit and is a lot different that the version we saw in Toronto. I'm sorry to hear that. But I will go see it and support it, no matter what. It has a great cast.
I am glad to hear that this film will finally be released, albeit on
DVD. I saw 'Haven' at the Toronto film festival and have been awaiting
it's release ever since. I did think that the film was a bit choppy,
which was mildly distracting, but that the overall ride was great. In
following up his critically acclaimed short 'Swallow' with 'Haven', his
feature film debut, Frankie Flowers proves that he is more than capable
of writing and directing a full length film.
While it is a difficult task to jump back and forth in a timeline, from sub plot to sub plot, while keeping an audience interested; entertained; and able to follow, I believe that Flowers has done a splendid job despite sacrificing some of the continuity for stylistic shot making. Tarantino has tried, despite box office success, somewhat in vain in this regard for years. Movies such as Magnolia have come along and disappointed and perhaps the only film in recent years to truly excel in this style was Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's '21 grams'.
With strong performances from an ensemble cast of well known Hollywood stars and unknown local talent, 'Haven' is well acted from start to finish. Orlando Bloom leads the way with an excellent performance as the going nowhere fast 'shy', and proves that he can portray a modern day man between timepiece and fantasy blockbusters. Dare I say he would be better off, from an acting portfolio sense, taking on more of these roles.
I highly recommend 'Haven', especially in this age of over the top; special effects no plot movies. I hope that Flowers continues to be given opportunities to hone his craft and I look forward to his next piece.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I attended a press screening of Haven on August 24, 2006. Here is my
review: Producer Robbie Brenner, after reading the script for Haven,
told Frank E. Flowers, writer and director, "I'll quit my job if you
let me produce this movie." Many people couldn't believe the person who
had written Haven was only 24 years old. Orlando Bloom (cast as Shy)
was so taken by the script that he signed on to produce as well. He
didn't, however, sign on to portray Fritz, the role he was initially
offered. "I loved the script, but the role I most responded to was the
character of Shy, who at the time was written as a young Caymanian kid
about 15 years old," recalls Bloom, who was reluctant for Flowers to
change the integrity of the script, but curious to see how he could do
it. "I was amazed. In literally 48 hours, Frank came back with another
script in which Shy had redeveloped into a character I could play. I
knew right then that if he could do something like that, I wanted to
work with him." At the time only 27 years old himself, Bloom also made
his first foray in the producing role. "It was exciting to start at the
bottom of a film and work your way through it, to really roll up your
sleeves and get involved," he said. "It really made me emotionally
connected to the movie, so much so that it became part of me." After
seeing the movie tonight, I too, was astounded that such a complex
story was so well told by such a filmmaker, and a producer/actor, both
of whom were still a few years shy (no pun intended) of 30.
Let me state up front, I didn't attend the initial screening of Haven in 2004 at the Toronto International Film Festival so I'm unable to offer any comparisons of the earlier version of the film to the 98 minute version screened tonight. I've heard there's been some possible re-tooling and editing done since 2004. If so, the result is a tight, fast-paced multi-plot film replete with irony and more twists and turns than the complicated financial system of the island.
Flowers says he doesn't consider himself a historian or a sociologist, but he does know his way around the islands and a great deal about the rich texture of its culture. That knowledge and experience is evident when watching the film, as we're shown various locations around the islands, from glitzy vacation villas, to smoky food vendor stalls along unpaved roads, to the party spots where wealthy "off-shore visitors" come together with the island's underground drug/crime royalty to party, to a dusty schoolyard, to the humble home of a fisherman.
The film is classic non-linear, multi-plot. The two stories, one a love story, the other a crime story, wind their way around each other in space, character, and time. While it would appear at first glance that Andrea (played beautifully by Zoe Saldana) and Shy, the main characters of the love story, have nothing in common with Carl Ridley (played well by Bill Paxton) and Mr. Allen (played by Stephen Dillane with a brilliant sense of wit and white-collar villainy), one discovers, as the story progresses, that they, as well as other supporting characters in both stories, are all flawed, broken people. Even though they are surrounded by the beauty of a tropical paradise, the refuge they seek appears to be just beyond their grasp.
"What attracted me to the story is that all of the characters in it are broken, and subject to the tragic consequences of their actions," observed Saldana. "They all had flaws, and whether they were victims of circumstances of because of the choices they made, they were very real because of their imperfections." The movie's cast is a refreshing combination of Hollywood veterans and local Caymanians who were recruited, auditioned, and trained for several supporting roles in the film. This resulted in a delicious infusion of local Cayman culture into over 30 speaking roles.
The role of Shy provided Orlando the opportunity to show new freedom and depth in his craft, perhaps to a degree never before seen. Certainly, being liberated from the restrictions of working with a sword helped. He does have two other contemporary films under his belt; The Calcium Kid, shot before Haven, and Elizabethtown, shot after Haven. While both films were delightful, I still think he brings more passion and spirit to this film. We see a wider range of emotions, from tender love and hope, to humiliation and shame, emotional withdrawal, rage, confusion, and despair, to name only a few. It is acting in its purest state, and he shines in it.
The film, in my opinion, is gripping, edgy, hip, tragic, complex, beautifully scripted, and wonderfully acted. The non-linear time shifts that Flowers employs may be perplexing to some. However, I found it served only to keep my eyes riveted to the screen. It's the kind of movie that requires your full attention. You'll want to put down your bucket of popcorn so you don't miss anything.
It all boiled down to one Friday the 13th night.
Haven takes place in the Cayman Islands, paradise on Earth, with beautiful beaches, friendly people, and of course, being the ideal place to stash cash, ill gotten or otherwise, free from taxation. In its seedier side, to paraphrase from another movie, weed is the currency, openly passed around in nacho chip bags. This movie ditches the idyllic moments, to peer beneath the veneer, of hell on Earth instead.
I like movies which have many characters, each with their own objectives, but being led by unseen forces as they relate to one another, and events bring them to within striking distance. They might belong to distinct story arcs, but given the geographical proximity, their lives, their decisions and the consequences all become intertwined.
There are three clear arcs in the movie, but the characters involved flit seamlessly from one arc to the next. You have the corrupt businessmen looking to escape the law at Miami, an affair, a daughter who hooks up with drugs and the wrong company, a sly thief of sorts, two star crossed lovers, a hot headed brother, good friends, and gangsters. On its own, they could be short stories. But when narrative style takes on the fragmented, non linear approach to spice and disguise an ordinary story, that's what you get in Frank E. Flowers' Haven.
Perhaps what will put bums in seats is the presence of Orlando Bloom, though the M18 rating would have restricted his girly groupie fans here from seeing their cinematic idol on screen in a role which is similar to what Tom Cruise did in Vanilla Sky, sort of. He plays the role of the Romeo in the star-crossed lovers arc, as Shy, son of a fisherman, still figuring out the meaning to his life, and having a lack of ambition which worries his girlfriend Andrea (Zoe Saldana). Parental disapproval gets into play, and the rest is a spiral downwards for both lovers and their relationship. Some say Bloom's role is intense, but there isn't enough room for his character to justify that.
And sadly, that was just about the better story amongst the three. In reality, all three could have been extremely short, as the scenes, though intercut with each other and had some overlapping moments, don't really contribute much to the characters or stories. You could have cut off half the fat, and still the story would hold water. One saving grace would be the score and soundtrack though, accentuating the illusion of paradise.
But this is not to say Haven's a really bad movie. It just had enough story elements to cruise along in auto-pilot, and in the process offer nothing groundbreaking stylistically, or earth shattering in having any twists and turns to the plot. Breaking up and juxtaposing a linear plot does not disguise the fact that it inherently needs a lot more oomph.
In Cayman Island, the daughter of a powerful man - Andrea (Zoe Saldana)
- and the fisherman Shy (Orlando Bloom) are in a deep but secret love,
hidden from Andrea's parents. When Andrea's father sails in a
fish-trip, they have a night of love at Andrea's home; however they
sleep and are surprised by the arrival of her family in the morning.
Later, Andrea's brother Hammer (Anthony Mackie) throws acid on the face
of Shy and spends four months in prison. In Miami, the dirty
businessman Carl Ridley (Bill Paxton) is chased by Federal agents and
escapes with his teenage daughter Pippa (Agnes Bruckner) to Cayman
Island trying to reach his lawyer Mr. Allen (Stephen Dillane). Pippa
meets the small time thief Fritz (Victor Rasuk) sleeping in her room
and he invites her to go a party. Before leaving the condo, Fritz sees
Carl counting lots of money. Fritz owes money to the dangerous drug
dealer Richie Rich (Razaaq Adoti) and tells him about the fortune Carl
has. Along a Friday 13th night, their lives entwine in a chain of
"Haven" is an entertaining movie, with a complex non-linear screenplay with many characters that have their lives entwined. There are many credible sub-plots and considering the running time of 99 minutes, the situations and characters are very well-developed. The direction and acting are great, there are many beautiful locations but the screenplay is really top-notch. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Haven"
Speaking as a native Caymanian, I have to say I was especially
impressed with this film. When news first got out of its production, I
was sincerely hoping that it wouldn't amount to some lengthy,
picturesque video brochure to attract further tourists to the island
and, low and behold, it's anything but.
Haven is a gritty, fierce yet picturesque portrayal of realism surrounding Cayman's underground subcultures. From love to drugs to violence, Flowers and his team perform an astounding delivery of these themes through the use of raw, powerful drama, all the while winding around a multitude of heinous plots that grow and intertwine to the point of cataclysm. Brilliant.
Flowers is making a name for himself alright. And I'll be adding this thrill ride to my collection as soon as it hits DVD. Not jut because I'm a fellow Caymanian but because I consider this to be a great movie.
I saw this film at the world premiere last night at the Toronto Film
Festival. It was a crime drama told in the non-linear style made famous
by Tarantino. What really made this movie stand out from like-themed
movies, was it's setting in the Cayman Islands. The culture of the
Caymans is evident in every shot, every frame, and it give an entirely
fresh perspective on subjects we've visited before.
Frank E. Flowers does a fantastic job of keeping the story coherent as we alternate between two timelines, set four months apart. The acting is strong and the entire film has a distinctive atmosphere.
The crowd seemed to love it, but then again, the entire cast was present and the audience was quite excited (especially by Orlando Bloom). Still, a very good movie. It seemed like it may have been a little long, perhaps ten minutes or so, but that really came from trying to establish the Caymanian culture, so it's understandable.
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