Andrea Pavlovic and Maziyar Khatam in Flower Boy (2021)
Flower Boy is one of the 11 short films screening at the 2021 Future of Film Showcase (FOFS), a Canadian not-for-profit media arts organization presenting short films from Canadian filmmakers aged 40 and younger.
Filmed in a dreamy summer haze, Flower Boy captures the hopes and dreams of a teenager figuring out who he is. The short film, written and directed by Anya Chirkova, brings together characters in different moments of their lives. As August creeps in, Nav (Maziyar Khatam) forms an intimate bond with an audacious painter Sarah (Andrea Pavlovic) and a middle-aged laser tag owner Frank (David Richard). Just as he begins to find himself, summer inescapably comes to an end. Sarah is leaving for school to study visual arts. Frank, riddled with thwarted dreams of becoming a musician, is stuck at a dead-end job. Meanwhile, Nav is at a loss for what step to take next. He’s passionate about making music, but his work is not something he’s willing to share much with others. A cloud of uncertainty follows him around. He feels like he should be doing something and doesn’t have the answers, a deeply resonating sentiment that strikes at any age. Flower Boy touches on a universal theme of inner uncertainty, and how this often gets in the way of people figuring out what they want to do in life. Frank’s kernel of advice is to do the things that matter to you, be with the people that matter to you. Enjoy being alive. Sarah wants to see Nav blossom, for him to move as far away from laser tag as possible so as not to get stuck in a place of habitual comfortability.
The fact that the story of Flower Boy transpires over summertime, particularly when August creeps in, is a wonderful choice. When fall is not far around the corner, change is in the air. New beginnings are on the horizon, and the emotional response to change can often be a nostalgic one. There’s a wistfulness about the character of Nav. He often seems stuck in a daydream…pensive about how to make the next step with his music, how to maintain a blossoming but fleeting summer romance with Sarah. Anya Chirkova beautifully conveys this daydream quality through a sort of faded, blurring cinematography. She evokes that sleepy feeling after spending hours in the sun. Creating a vibe on screen is a challenge Chirkova is totally up for and delivers on. The story really evokes the feeling of reminiscing about a golden, special summer. One that ought to never end, because once it does (particularly for teenagers and young adults), what’s left is a heap of decisions waiting to be faced. Whether it’s related to school or finding a career, there’s a mounting pressure that comes with not knowing what direction to go in. This pressure is hovering just outside of Nav’s summertime experience, where he’s soaking up the sun with Sarah and coasting through a chilled-out job, but at the back of his mind is the anxiousness of not really having a plan.
Flower Boy is a bittersweet coming-of-age story that glows with good performances and a clear voice at the helm. The low-fi cinematography and ‘relax & unwind’ music add to a dreamy summertime quality. As someone who grew up in and around Toronto, the setting and place have an almost instantly recognizable quality, and this specificity also allows the story to reach a universal place. There’s a great deal of nostalgia surrounding the characters, particularly the protagonist. Nav is holding onto the heat of the moment, a glimmer of promise in bonding with Sarah and coming out of his shell a bit more, before having to face the inevitability of summer ending. The film beautifully explores the power of a meaningful connection, to someone or something, no matter how brief or fleeting.
The 8th annual Future of Film Showcase will be available to stream across Canada for free on CBC Gem from July 9 to 22, 2021. Visit www.FOFS.ca for the full short film lineup, which includes more women-led stories to discover.