Wildflower – TIFF 2022


Wildflower – TIFF 2022

A coming-of-age film that follows Bea Johnson from birth to graduation as she navigates life with an intellectually disabled parent and an extended family who can’t quite agree on the best way to help.

A teenager in a coma reflects on growing up with intellectually disabled parents in . After an unknown accident, Bea () is rushed to the hospital, where she remains in a coma. While unconscious, Bea reflects on her time growing up under the parentage of Derek () and Sharon (), both of whom have developmental disabilities. As Bea becomes more independent as a teenager, including developing a relationship with classmate Ethan (), she begins to get annoyed about her parents' dependency on her.

Wildflower is a coming-of-age film directed by Matt Smukler, loosely based on the true story of his niece. Growing up with disabled parents, the protagonist Bea, played by Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), receives support from her Aunt and Uncle ( and ), while her grandmothers ( and ) feud with each other. Bea has dreams of going away to school but is afraid that her parents will not be able to manage without her.

To a neurotypical person, Wildflower might come off somewhat like last year's CODA, except involving a child of disabled parents, instead of deaf ones. However, as someone on the autistic spectrum, I viewed Wildflower as somewhat ableist. While I'm sure director Matt Smukler meant well, I am bothered by the repeated description of Derek and Sharon's marriage as them playing how and how the film's big dramatic blow-up between Bea and her parents, which includes the use of the dreaded R-word, comes she finds out Derek cancelled Sharon's Disability supports because “she is not disabled, she is special.” Ultimately, while Wildflower is a fine enough coming-of-age film, I can't defend the film's depiction of people with disabilities.

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How to Watch Wildflower – TIFF 2022

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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