Named after her mother’s favourite cartoon character, Bea ‘Bambi’ Johnson (Kiernan Shipka) is the child of two parents, Derek (Dash Mihok) and Sharon (Samantha Hyde) who both have learning difficulties. Sharon was born that way and Derek was hit by a car when he was a child and has a life long brain injury. However, they both fell in love, got married and soon along came Bea.
As Bea grew up, she came to learn that her parents were not exactly the same as her friends’ parents, but she stood by them even when the authorities decided to intervene. However as with most stories of teenage life comes love and thinking about the future and that’s where things get complicated.
Wildflower is a feel-good coming of age comedy drama based on a true story of a woman whose parents have learning difficulties. A story such as this may conjure up ideas of a child acting as a parent and weighed down by the weight of responsibility, however thankfully Wildflower doesn’t do that.
Instead, Bea is shown to be a typical teenage girl with a ‘normal’ upbringing who experiences the kinds of things a girl her age should. However, despite the hook of the story being that her parents are neurodivergent, nothing all that special happens to her.
This may be the point to show that parents such as Derek and Sharon can raise a child just as well as any other. The problem is that the movie makes them side characters and often the comic relief in their own story. This makes the movie feel like a missed opportunity as it brushes the issues of their disabilities aside.
All the cast do well and Shipka continues to prove her screen presence in a lead role. However, it feels that a lot of the time the story is people talking about a couple with learning difficulties rather than letting them speak for themselves.
Hopefully the audience will realise the subtleties showing that parents such as these are the same as any other. Although without exploring their relationship in much detail, it doesn’t do much to dispel the myths.
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