Frank E. Flowers's Haven Reviewed
by Alex Billington
September 26, 2006
When I think of the Cayman Islands, I think of beaches, cruise ships, and definitely money. Haven shows the darker Cayman Islands: drugs, dirty money, love, homicides, and lies. Directed by Cayman Islands native Frank E. Flowers, Haven tells a number of intricate stories that are woven together perfectly. The film starts with Carl Ridley (Bill Paxton) and his daughter Pippa (Agnes Bruckner) who are trying to deposit money in a Caymanian bank without being arrested by the American government. We are also introduced to Shy (Orlando Bloom), a Cayman Islands resident whose father was killed in one of the only homicides on the island that was not vehicular, domestic, or drug-related. Shy ends up getting too involved in a secret relationship with another young Caymanian and takes a brutal beating. The stories of these and many other characters come together in just over one day's time and reach a dramatic and intense climax. Haven seems to underline that paradise is not much more than drugs and money.
Those familiar with Fernando Meirelles's 2002 movie City of God will enjoy Haven in much the same way. The realism and emotion are very similar in both films, but while City of God was set in Rio de Janeiro, Haven is on a 76-square-mile rock in the middle of the Caribbean. Writer / director Flowers's own childhood growing up on the Cayman Islands proves to be a very powerful influence in capturing the authentic feeling of the location. Haven truly is a fully encompassing Cayman Islands movie. The film showcases all aspects of the islands from their people and locations via wide camera shots, to the lavish lifestyle of wealthy residents. We even learn the story behind why the Caymans are widely recognized for the banks and rich people dwelling there.
The strongest aspect of Haven is its writing. Haven spans an immense number of stories yet develops each into its own intense and gripping experience. Only someone as capable as Flowers would be able to successfully and enjoyably blend these stories together, and he has certainly done so. Although there were a few scenes that seemed to be edited in without any connection to current happenings, most of the story fits together intricately like thousands of puzzle pieces that create a beautiful picture. However this is not the only part where Flowers shines. The cinematography is especially intriguing as Flowers uses not only in-your-face overwhelming camera work, but often moves the focus in and out, adding an additional level of depth. Although some may say that this is slightly annoying, it is really a very dynamic addition to the many of the scenes. Much of Haven is very visual and stunning, adding another fantastic element that has been applied effectively.
Orlando Bloom as Shy, along with Zoe Saldana as Andrea, Agnes Bruckner as Pippa, Victor Rasuk as Fritz, and Anthony Mackie as Hammer, all deliver incredible performances. Despite the recognizable big names of Orlando Bloom and Bill Paxton, the actors in Haven blended well with real Cayman Islands residents and made the film that much more of a genuine experience. Orlando Bloom is in one of his better roles and presents a very empathetic character. Overall the extraordinary acting in Haven is what helps build an all-around remarkable film.
I can provide nothing but continual praise for Haven and its achievements in acting, directing, and writing, due largely to Frank E. Flowers and Orlando Bloom. Haven is not getting as much appreciation and respect as it deserves for being an intense and amazing film from young director / writer Frank E. Flowers. The multiple stories will leave you breathless and mesmerized as they mesh together perfectly with dynamic visuals. Haven is an eccentric yet marvelous film worth not only the theatrical ticket price, but also the rental price and DVD purchase price.