Wallflower, co-written and directed by Jagger Gravning, is a new drama-thriller inspired by the true story of the 2006 Capitol Hill shooting. A gripping and timely portrait of how violence can take over a person, this film takes a unique approach to tragedy and creates a fascinating tale of humanity as a result.
The approach that Gravning and his co-writer John W. Comerford take to this story is extremely unorthodox, allowing the movie to stand out among the sea of other movies based on real life tragedies. Whereas a majority of similar movies opt to milk the core tragedy to elicit an emotional reaction from the audience, this film tells the story in a way that emphasizes the victims as true characters, more than just victims.
Over the course of the movie, viewers will get acquainted with the group of ravers who are the subjects of the story. Because some of the characters have substantial individual arcs and are given identities outside of “victim”, this film is able to feel much more personal than other movies about tragedies typically do.
That said, the film’s depiction of the killer could be seen as somewhat problematic. Although the movie does not paint him in a sympathetic light, the fact that he has an arc can be frustrating at times. Because the ending of the story is common knowledge, audiences ultimately will not identify with the character. Still, it seems like some of the time spent with that character would have been better used exploring some of the ravers’ lives in more detail.
The film’s emotional core is also quite strong. There are quite a few moments in the movie that are extremely resonant because of the way in which the film fosters a connection between the characters and the audience. Yet the movie never feels like it intends to be a tear-jerker. Rather, the purpose seems to be to show that these characters are just people like any other person who sees the film.
While this is very much an ensemble-driven movie, there are a few performances that really stand out. Atsuko Okatsuka and Conner Marx play two of the main ravers, and they do an excellent job of giving the characters a unique personality. Their performances are both very charming, helping craft the bond that is destined to be so tragically broken.
On a technical level, the film is quite strong. Since the movie is set predominantly in a single location, Gravning creates a sense of spatial geography that immerses the audience in the film. As things become more and more hectic over the course of the night, viewers will feel increasingly shut in by the world in which the movie takes place.
Even though it does have a fair amount of issues, Wallflower manages to be a unique and compelling approach to a story that very easily could have went astray. It definitely isn’t an uplifting film, but it is an important and necessary one nonetheless.
Wallflower is now playing in theaters.