The Journey with Jesus: Film Reviews
Film Reviews by Dan Clendenin
Broken Flowers (2005)
Does Don Johnston (Bill Murray) really have a 19-year-old son from his philandering past? Does it matter? An anonymous letter he received insists that he does, and that his enterprising son is on a journey to find his father. Don's not so sure; perhaps it's a hoax. Next door neighbor Winston, a wannabe detective writer, cannot resist the intrigue, and sends Don packing to visit four girl friends from his past, all the while looking for important "clues" to discover who sent the letter and bore his son.
We know that Don will visit four former lovers, and that they will now live in extraordinarily different settings. "It sure is crazy how people change," exclaims the husband of a former lover. Laura (Sharon Stone) is a "closet organizer," Dora (Frances Conroy) was a former hippie who lives in a wealthy but sterile suburb and sells "high quality pre-fab homes," Carmen (Jessica Lange) is a former lawyer turned "pet communicator," and Penny (Tilda Swinton) lives in rural isolation among angry grease ball bikers. Winston identified a fifth candidate who died, so Don visits her grave too. But this simple road trip develops more subtleties than we might imagine.
The journey transforms Don. At first he professed wholesale disinterest, then he agreed to go, he eventually becomes interested in these former lovers and how their lives had intersected, and by the end he himself is haunted with finding his son. Also, violent dreams about any number of other women agitate him with unpleasant memories. A second letter from his most recent former girl friend Sherry on similar stationery bookends the end of the film. But to the last of the film you do not know if Don succeeds in his quest, and neither does he. Then you realize that this film is not about Don's girlfriends or his phantom son but about himself, an aging Don Juan who made money "in computers" but who awakens to move beyond his laconic, couch-potato existence. He is not trying to find former lovers, or even his son; he's trying to find himself.