As the extremely withdrawn Don Johnston is dumped by his latest woman, he receives an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. A freelance sleuth neighbor moves Don to embark on a cross-country search for his old flames in search of answers.
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The resolutely single Don Johnston has just been dumped by his latest lover, Sherry. Don resigns himself to being alone yet again and left to his own devices. Instead, he is compelled to reflect on his past when he receives by mail a mysterious pink letter. It is from an anonymous former lover and informs him that he has a 19-year-old son who may now be looking for his father. Don is urged to investigate this "mystery" by his closest friend and neighbor, Winston, an amateur sleuth and family man. Hesitant to travel at all, Don nonetheless embarks on a cross-country trek in search of clues from four former flames. Unannounced visits to each of these unique women hold new surprises for Don as he haphazardly confronts both his past and, consequently, his present. Written by
I can't think of an actor better suited to play the expressionless chronic bachelor Don at the heart of Jim Jarmusch's newest movie than Bill Murray. His mournful hound-dog face, which hides any trace of what's going on inside the head on which it sits, stares blankly at the T.V., at other people, sometimes at nothing, betrays itself with the slightest movement of the mouth or twitch of the eyes. It's a characterization Murray has so down pat that I'm tempted to think he's not really acting all that much, but he's so perfectly cast that it doesn't much matter whether he's acting or not.
If you're not familiar with the movies of Jim Jarmusch, "Broken Flowers" is a nice introduction, as it's the most accessible Jarmusch film I've seen. I'm not a huge fan, but I liked this movie quite a lot. Don receives an anonymous letter one day from a past girlfriend, telling him he has a 19-year-old son who may come looking for him. Murray's friend, Winston (played amusingly by the chameleon Jeffrey Wright), convinces him to track down a handful of women who could have possibly been the mother and resolve the mystery. Don agrees to it, seemingly not so much because he has a need to know but because he has nothing better to do. What follows is a series of scenes with each past girlfriend, during which their interactions with Don tell us heaps about their relationship back when they were dating. Some are affectionate, some are distant, one is downright scarily angry, but all are played beautifully by a quartet of actresses: Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton.
This is Jarmusch, so there aren't necessarily any tidy answers, and I don't think I give anything away by saying that the mystery is never solved. Life is messy, and it doesn't always happily resolve itself just because we want it to. I liked how subtle the film was; Don doesn't make any huge ground-breaking discoveries about himself, but nevertheless you sense that he's a slightly different person after his journey than he was before it.
You'll have to be patient, as Jarmusch tells his story very slowly, and nearly all of Don's interaction with others is ponderously awkward. But the movie slowly begins to fascinate, and you find yourself watching the faces of the women he visits (and examining the visible details of their lives) much in the same way that Don is himself, looking for the slightest hint that she might be the one who sent that fateful letter.
A very fine film, poignant and sad in a rather obscure way, and one that stays in your mind for a while after seeing it.
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