Unsettling Horror Drama is Flowing (FANTASTIC) from This Italian Gem
First Non-Festival Release: TBD
Director: Paolo Strippoli
Writer: Paolo Strippoli, Jacopo del Giudice
Runtime: 96 Minutes
Starring: Fabrizio Rongione, Francesco Gheghi, Aurora Meneti
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Fantastic Film Festival in 2022.
Trauma has a tricky way of infecting everyday life for everyday people. That’s what happens to one family. Thomas’ (Fabrizio Rongione) wife Cristina (Christiana Dell’Anna) dies in a car accident thanks to a poor decision from their careless son Enrico (Francesco Gheghi). Additionally, his daughter Barbara (Aurora Menenti) is left paralyzed from the fallout adding to the lingering pain of the incident. Their family is still reeling from the accident when a mysterious gas starts rising from the city’s sewers. Its properties are unknown and by the time it’s discovered to elicit feelings of primal aggression prompting people to murder, maim, and self-destruct, it’s far too late.
Disturbing and visually haunting, Flowing is a dark family horror drama that will have a hard time melting away from your mind.
Deeply metaphorical, Flowing takes a standard horror setting and twists it to discuss the importance of anger in a society. Frustration, resentment, and bigotry are among many things that bubble inside a person. In Flowing, these hot emotions come through whether we are ready to process them or not. As people fight loved ones, enemies, and strangers alike, there is a distinct release in the film that allows everyone to exorcise their demons.
Each character processes grief in their own way, but clearly their coping mechanisms are tearing their family to pieces. Enrico is given the bulk of the development considering he has the most guilt lingering from the accident. Enrico has spiraled into a quintessential bad boy that is the antithesis to who he truly was when his mother was still alive. He breaks things on purpose, picks fights, and skips school among other things.
The most obvious sign that Enrico is deeply messed up from this experience is his seeking out comfort in the sex worker, Marta. She becomes a motherly figure to him after they have sex, which is quickly dropped when she has another client afterwards. It’s sad to see a kid so lost and hurt that he resorts to nihilism and destruction to cope with the guilt of causing the car accident that ended his mother’s life.
The rest of the family is obviously not without their issues. Thomas is broken after the accident and struggles to keep things together: his job, his family, and his personal life. He internalizes his failures as a father by lashing out on his son and attempting to make up for his inability to care of his wife by attending to a neighbor down the hall. Barbara has developed a thick skin because she believes she must be strong for her father and brother. She picks fights with older kids and pushes herself in her mobility exercises.
A recurring and important motif in Flowing is that of water. From a surface level view, water is what brings the noxious fumes to life and thus cursing the people of Rome into committing violent acts against one another. There’s more to it though. Water is a fluid substance that can take many different forms depending on its location and environment. The water cycle is used to mimic the natural cycle of water on earth with that of grief and rage. These negative emotions run a person dry, to where they have evaporated from the body, this is where people refuse to acknowledge or speak of their issues. In condensation, these thoughts build in the heads of our character before they became too difficult to manage. Thus, brings precipitation, the part of the cycle where everything rains down when released.
The healing process from trauma is a difficult one that involves plenty of releases. When the family finally talks to each other and listens, they are able to have the release they have needed all along from the emotions imprisoning them in their current sad existence. Tears that were once red and black with gunk and blood are now clear, as they embrace each other after fighting. There is still damage done, people and things to clean up, but the worst is over for these people. The ending of Flowing offers hope that one can learn from these lessons and show restraint in hurting the ones they love while still allowing themselves to feel repressed emotions.
Dark yet hopeful despite moments of nihilism, Flowing is a slow burn horror drama that crescendos into a beautiful finale. The entire film is framed in a depressing and ominous tint. Most places in Flowing look dull and lifeless, mostly thanks to the appropriate cinematography and brutalist architecture. Dripping in blood, muck, and dissolving flesh, Flowing is a goopy film that rides on the success of its top-notch special effects. One scene at the end is particularly terrifying thanks to the desiccating and mucousy texture it translates off screen. The soundtrack and score are lively and engaging. There’s a particular sequence of Enrico causing destruction set to this bombastic hip hop track that is perfect for exemplifying teen angst.
What makes Flowing such a compelling watch is its commitment to great storytelling and character development. As the audience learns more about this fractured family and what led them to their current state of dysfunction, it gives way to a terrifying finale that offers a cathartic release of tension and love. The mystery behind the mechanics of the unknown gas leak adds to the film’s appeal. Sometimes the catalyst is not as interesting as what either precedes or proceeds it. The violence is scary yet the journey these people take to get there, and the answers they receive, is more captivating. Fans of deep metaphorical horror and offbeat premises will find much love Flowing from their hearts after watching this one.
Overall Score? 8/10