Jim Jarmusch doesn’t make big-budget or flashy films. They appear and slowly work their way through film festivals and around art-house theatres. You have to keep your eye out to be able to see one of the films in a theatre, but it’s always worth it. With Broken Flowers it is getting a larger release and a bit more promotion. But the film, the approach and the filmmaker haven’t changed. The film isn’t focus-grouped or tested or easy. It’s a subtle story of a man who is stuck at a point in his life where he doesn’t have to do anything. If he wants he can just sit on his couch in a track suit and watch tv. Jarmusch is a master of stillness and silence and places outside of the mainstream. He explores the airport, the rental car, the motel room, the side streets, and backroads and captures interesting and wonderful moments there.
In a way, Broken Flowers covers similar ground to Stranger Than Paradise. They’re both road movies where people deal with unexpected family surprises. Bill Murray is wonderful to watch as Don, a man who lives in a house that is dark and sparse, but his neighbour lives in a house filled with toys and love. The only time we see some spark in Murray is when he visits the house and interacts with the kids. His friend Winston is played perfectly by Jeffrey Wright. Winston wants to help Don find out who wrote a letter saying that he fathered a son with her 20 years ago. Winston plans a road trip for Don to visit the potential mothers and then Don goes off to explore his past. With each stop on his trip, we find out a tiny bit more about the women that Don knew and about him. The episodic structure allows for some great scenes between Murray and his ex flames and without a lot of expository dialogue. What do you say to someone after you haven’t seen them for 20 years? The actors inhabit the spaces between the words as an unexpected man from their past shows up unannounced. We watch the uncomfortable moments to see if any of this is changing Don as he revists his own past.