Can we ever truly leave a world behind to begin over, or are we doomed to spend our lives fleeing the sorrow of our pasts? This question haunts the protagonists in The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, an adaptation of Holly Ringland’s novel of the same name. It is a series that also relies mainly on its characters to carry it through its many more complex parts, spanning years of their lives as they struggle to deal with the aftermath of a catastrophe.
As a showcase for protagonists Sigourney Weaver and Alycia Debnam-Carey, it demonstrates that both can make the most of weak material that is dangerously near to falling apart. They manage to keep everything together almost by force of will, despite all the narrative fault lines that begin to appear and threaten to swallow everything.
The first opens with the introduction of Alice Hart (Alyla Browne), a young woman whose existence is marked by violence. Initially seen through her eyes in a way that keeps the abuse at a distance, this finally reaches a breaking point, leaving her an orphan. She is later taken in by her grandma June (Weaver), who is initially skeptical of the arrangement but gradually accepts her. She has created a community for women and children fleeing violent relationships on her flower farm.
Twig, portrayed by Leah Purcell (who was just in the Sundance film Shayda, which dealt with comparable topics with significantly more sensitivity), becomes more and more of a force in the plot. Throughout the seven episodes, the mysteries of their individual pasts are brought to the forefront of the present. Some of this has a dreamlike air, while others are calm, with many graphics proving to be more contemplative than the somewhat straightforward language.
Certain moments transcend this, but they are just too rare to offset the accumulation of the series’ more clunky components. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart confuses didacticism with detail, leaving the actors mired in their own tale rather than driving it. Instead, they are frequently carried away by its escalations.
Whereas the series’ presentation is frequently impressive and engrossing, the same cannot be said for its writing. Certain factors push the program in the direction of a thriller when it works far better as a character study. The early episodes, in which we get to know Alice in her childhood and see her navigating June’s world, are captivating in their simplicity. Some risks are external, but the most fascinating aspects emerge when we have time to sit with the individuals.
The specifics of their lives that they are rebuilding for themselves, rather than the calamities in their pasts and probable futures, prove to be the most intriguing. Disruptions to this peace are unavoidable, but how the series depicts them keeps the characters in the dark. The jump far into the future, in particular, is where things begin to feel the most uneven. Though there are echoes of the past in how things frequently repeat themselves, this transition lacks the poignancy with which the series began.
Everything is dispersed, removing the layers that were being constructed and leaving us with little to cling to. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is comparable to another recent series in which Debnam-Carey appeared, Saint X, but is just a bit more concentrated enough to seem like a far more significant squandered opportunity.
The longer it continues, the more it extends out in time and space, and the more it loses sight of its characters’ qualities. There is a care in each performance that is undermined by how it is all sewn together, making isolated parts and sequences where we watch the characters evolve too rare. Instead of characters, the series is driven by the storyline and growing disclosures regarding narrative elements.
Some of the last episode’s concluding discussions are exceptionally difficult, with much information to go through before the emotional reward. This episode, like the current series The Crowded Room, depends too heavily on dragging us back through the gruesome details of what happened even after we’ve already figured it out on our own.
By emphasizing the past, the characters’ futures are given less breathing room and stay overly confined. It consumes all the air, preventing the cast from delving into the plot with the essential depth. This is nearly literal in one scenario as a character is surrounded by flames, sparking flashbacks of the conflagration that started it all. We get explanations for what happened, but there isn’t much time to process the underlying emotions. The final moments are where those feelings may be felt the greatest, but they’re more of a last gasp for something greater than a fully earned completion.
Without delving into specifics, there is one sequence after The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart starring Weaver that is shattering even though little is spoken. Seeing her finally get a chance to dominate the tale — without struggling against it — gives a glimpse of what could’ve been if she hadn’t been so marginalized. It’s a more poignant moment than anything else before it, enhanced by a monologue she delivers that the narrative finally allows for. The fact that she discovers her voice so towards the conclusion of the series emphasizes the idea that she should have been allowed to speak with such intensity much earlier.