This movie was originally released in Spain on Sept.
23, 2000 at the San Sebastián Film Festival. It was
filmed in and around New York City as well as the Czech
Republic and opened in limited run in the states on
March 15, 2002.
Sarah Lloyd (Andie MacDowell)
embarks on a perilous journey to find Harrison (David
Strathairn), her husband, colleague and father of their
two children. The Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist
is missing on an assignment in a country far, far from
home. He is presumed dead by his associates and his
editor Samuel Brubeck (Alun Armstrong).
it is Sarah who leaves others in disbelief, hell-bent in
her pursuit to find Harrison - dead or alive. Rather
than convincing her to turn back, she convinces
Harrison's colleagues to forge ahead. In helping Sarah,
fellow photojournalists Kyle (Adrien Brody), Stevenson
(Brendan Gleeson) and Harrison's best friend Yeager
(Elias Koteas) find a new perspective in the midst of
this horrendous battle of brother against brother.
Armed solely with their camera lenses, all muster a
courage they never knew they had.
And life, as Sarah knew it, suddenly becomes unreal.
Reality now could only be found in the surreal.
You can get more information at
Harrison's Flowers site.
Harrison's Flowers review by
The following synopsis was
submitted by 'Ben' in France. He saw the movie and said
it was one of the best he's seen and was surprised it
wasn't promoted better in the states:
"Harrisson's Flowers (HR) is a
French movie with American actors. In fact, everybody
who played or made this movie was American, except the
film director, who was French, that's why this movie
is said to be French.
"The film director is Elie
Chouraqui. You probably don't know him, but I can tell
you that he's a typical French film director -- that
means that he is silly and more stupid than my little
brother! Every movie he made was the worst movie of
the year. Two years ago, he began to work for a French
musical, and it is a success (I'm wondering why, it is
not great at all...). And at the end of January, "HR"
was projected in French cinemas with absolutely no
advertising, only a trailer who wasn't projected yet!
"It is one of the most horrible
wars of the end of the 20th century. Harrisson is
declared "disappeared" in Osijiek, in Croatia. A few
days after, the Associated Press says that Harrisson
Lloyd is dead. When Sarah learns this, she believes it
is the end of everything. But in the middle of the
night, she gets a phone call, but there's no one
there. She believes it was Harrisson, and she decides
to go to Croatia in order to find her husband.
"The movie is not short, but not
very long for such a subject (130 min). Adrian Brody
plays a photographer, who hates Harrisson at the
beginning of the film, but helps Sarah in Croatia try
to find her husband. And the last one is Elias Koteas.
Elias plays a man called Yaeger, who is a war
photographer. I think he works in Newsweek, too. He's
Harrison's best friend, and knows Sarah well. He knows
her so much, that he's in love with her, but we learn
that in the middle of the film.
"When Sarah is in Croatia, he
doesn't feel very well. Sarah took the camera of her
husband, and she makes photos, and sends them to
Newsweek, so that Yaeger knows where she is. He, too,
decides to go to Croatia to find Sarah and to bring
her back to New York, but ends up there to help her to
"One great thing: the beginning of
this movie is something like an interview of the
characters...the first image of the film you see is a
close-up at his face!
"The movie itself takes place in
October, 1991. Harrisson Lloyd, (David Strathairn) a
Newsweek war photographer, is sent to Yugoslavia in
order to take photos of a little conflict between
Croatia and Serbia. Sarah (Andie MacDowell), his wife,
doesn't want him to leave her because their child is
going to have a birthday. He promises her he will be
back to NYC for the birthday. But days are passing,
and it appears that the conflict in Yougoslavia is
more than that.
"...Indeed, you see the jobs of
these men (and women) who risk their lives to take
photos and send them to world papers so that people
see how awful war is...."
Harrison's Flowers review
Variety, Oct. 2, 2000
After a long
career of making generally lightweight, mostly
unexceptional French-language fare, director Elie
Chouraqui delivers a hard-hitting narrative depiction of
the Bosnian conflict and of the work of photo-reporters
in a war zone. Despite a lackluster cable-movie frame
set in the U.S., "Harrison's Flowers" nonetheless
provides powerful drama thanks to its trenchant core
story and harrowing re-creation of the brutal chaos of
war. A name cast led by Andie MacDowell could help land
theatrical exposure, with stronger prospects down the
track on video.
shares themes with other dramas about warzone reporters
such as "The Year of Living Dangerously" and "Under
Fire," the film most directly recalls Michael
Winterbottom's "Welcome to Sarajevo," which examined the
fighting in former Yugoslavia through a group of war
correspondents. Chouraqui's feature arguably comes
closer than any nondocumentary work to date in conveying
the horror of the ethnic cleansing that devastated that
country in the 1990s.
well played, the bland opening section is unpromising.
Title character Harrison Lloyd (David Strathairn) is a
veteran war photojournalist for Newsweek with a
distinguished career and a Pulitzer Prize behind him.
The film pencils in his happy but sometimes strained
marriage to Sarah (MacDowell), the weight of his long,
too-frequent absences on his relationship with their two
kids, the friendship tinged with rivalry that ties him
to fellow photo-reporter Yeager Pollock (Elias Koteas),
and the resentment directed at him by hot-headed Kyle (Adrien
Brody), another reporter whose work has never received
the same recognition.
to pieces when word comes back that Harrison has gone
missing and is presumed dead on his farewell assignment
in 1991 Yugoslavia, at the start of what then appeared
to be a minor conflict. Refusing to believe he's dead,
she barricades herself in a room and stays glued to CNN
until she becomes convinced she sees her husband among a
group of prisoners being taken to Vukovar.
then switches to Europe as Sarah flies to Graz in
Austria. Compelled more by passionate certainty than by
reason, she hires a car to drive to Yugoslavia (Czech
Republic locations stand in), teaming up with a
Paris-based Croatian student eager to reenter the
country and move his family to safety.
MacDowell is not always the most resourceful of
actresses, her soft edges and somewhat guileless manner
can be used to good effect in showing an
ordinary woman shattered by
dramatic events. Nowhere is this more in evidence than
in her horrific introduction to war, when Serbian tank
and rifle fire halts the car in which Sarah is
traveling, the student is shot dead alongside her and
she narrowly escapes being raped by a soldier.
point on, the film takes on an entirely different
charge, instantly establishing tension and a raw,
shocking quality and maintaining its grip throughout
Sarah's terrifying ordeal. While still stunned and
speechless after the attack, she is picked up by a group
of photographers that includes Kyle and Irish colleague
Stevenson (Brendan Gleeson). While they attempt to
persuade Sarah that her presence in Yugoslavia is
madness and that Harrison almost certainly is dead, she
unexpected support from Kyle, accompanying her on the
increasingly dangerous route to Vukovar. Weathering
heavy sniper attacks, Sarah begins photographing the
accelerating chain of atrocities and death she witnesses
and sending the pics back to Newsweek, attributing them
to Harrison. Yeager pieces together what's really going
on and travels to Yugoslavia in an attempt to bring her
back, but ends up joining the group.
much less physically demanding style of cinema that has
been director Chouraqui's forte, the skill with which
the highly potent war scenes are handled is doubly
impressive. And despite the seeming improbability of
certain aspects of Sarah's journey, the sobriety and
intelligence brought to the material make it quite
persuasive. The impact of the war scenes and of the
story of a civilian whose fear is overshadowed by love
is matched by the drama's stirring portrait of the
reckless courage of the correspondents.
Cinematographer Nicola Pecorini has done a creditable
job of capturing both the unnerving stillness of the
quiet spells and the unpredictable panic of full-scale
conflict, with judicious use of handheld cameras and
mainly to look stunned but determined, MacDowell gives
the drama a solid, affecting center. Brody is on target
with another smart, edgy perf as a character set up to
be a troublemaker but ultimately transformed into a
source of surprising strength and commitment, while
Strathairn, Koteas and Gleeson also have strong moments.
French Review (translation anyone??)
reporters de guerre n'ont pas eu très souvent les
honneurs du grand écran, le dernier film en date étant
TO SARAJEVO de Michael Winterbottom.
Elie Chouraqui, réalisateur dispensable et
auteur entre autres de PAROLES ET MUSIQUES et de LES
MARMOTTES, s'est lui aussi projeté au centre du
conflit pour en restituer toute sa barbarie.
Lloyd est un grand reporter photographe de guerre,
envoyé en Yougoslavie en octobre 1991 pour couvrir
"les débuts d'un conflit mineur". Quelques jours après
son départ, on annonce sa mort à sa femme. Ne pouvant
admettre le pire, Sarah (Andie MacDowell)
décide contre vents et marées de partir à sa recherche
alors que les combats atteignent leur paroxysme
prétexte d'un drame familial et d'une histoire d'amour
brisée, HARRISON'S FLOWERS illustre brutalement
l'intensité de ce nettoyage ethnique inhumain et
presque incompréhensible où l'homme n'est qu'une pipe
dans la ligne de mire de quelques snipers. Les
séquences de "nettoyage" violemment impressionnantes
ne bénéficient heureusement pas d'une quelconque
stylisation. Tout y est arraché, tendu, sec et
destructeur. Sans rien concéder au spectaculaire ou au
voyeurisme primaire, le réalisateur assied un point de
vue adulte, celui du "ils doivent savoir", shootant
dans tous les sens des images, des témoignages des
atrocités tolérées sous on ne sait quel couvert.
Sifflement des balles, explosions assourdissantes,
exécutions dégueulasses, passages de barrages à haut
risque tout est question de survie dans un métier tout
aussi répugnant que nécessaire. Pourtant ces louanges
ne peuvent masquer la maladresse de l'emballage, un
emballage vaguement semblable au
PRIVATE RYAN de Steven Spielberg,
sauf qu'ici quatre photographes parcourent des
territoires mis à feu et à sang pour retrouver un
collègue et mari hypothétiquement en vie. Cette
dramaturgie ternit la force indéniable de l'ensemble
mais termine à la fois un portrait judicieux de ces
hommes et ces femmes qui risquent leur vie pour que
les autres sachent. A défaut d'être une ¦uvre
totalement réussie, HARRISON'S FLOWERS fait partie de
ces films utiles et ça, ça vaut toujours la peine.