Bea Johnson (Kiernan Shipka) is your average quirky protagonist. She comes from a non-conventional family, isn’t afraid to speak her mind and runs into trouble because she just wants more out of life than what she thinks her parents can provide. In this case, her parents, Sharon (Samantha Hyde) and Derek (Dash Mihok), are neurodivergent. Sharon was born with a mental disability; Derek was hurt in an accident with a drunk driver as a child. Their union was unexpected, as was Bea, which is short for “Bambi,” her mother’s favorite movie. Although raised in love, Bea bristles against the responsibility she feels toward her parents. Wildflower finds her on the cusp of graduation and unsure how to move forward in her life. It basically just checks all the boxes for this type of film, right down to the tame irreverence of its well-cast family and a good-hearted finale built to satisfy audiences rather than challenge them.
And to be sure, it will satisfy some audiences. The cast includes plenty of recognizable faces putting in serviceable performances. Jean Smart plays Peg, Bea’s maternal grandmother; Jacki Weaver plays her opposite, Loretta, who never wanted her son to marry Sharon in the first place but wouldn’t force a divorce because it’s a sin. Alexandra Daddario appears as Joy, Bea’s aunt, who has seen a lot of success alongside husband Ben (Reid Scott) but is a little more uptight and controlled than her niece can handle. If you’re looking for something that really feels compiled from minor-league inspirational family films, Wildflower delivers that.
However, its consistency and risk aversion make it something of a ho-hum watch otherwise. No beat feels fresh. In a particularly disastrous move, the film relies heavily on voiceover from Shipka due to a story structure that basically plays with the record scratch “you may be wondering how I got here” format. Voiceover can often feel like info-dumping instead of an engaging story, which is how it typically feels in Wildflower.
Truthfully, I don’t want to go hard on Wildflower. It’s not a bad film by any stretch, but given the cast, it’s a frustratingly uninspired one. Writers with greater knowledge of neurodivergent individuals can weigh in on whether their depiction here is sufficiently sensitive; for what it’s worth, Wildflower seems to handle it well — rightfully rendering a story of self-determination rather than family holding our hero back. Of course, that in itself is just a common trope for teen movies. Frankly, unless you’re interested in a specific actor or performance, or just love movies about young women coming into their own, there isn’t much to recommend.