Review: Flashbacks of a Fool (2008)


Flashbacks of a Fool is a coming-of-age tale about forbidden romance, teenage innocence, and the dangers of old sea mines. More importantly, it is evidence that brilliance can exist without coherence or flow.

The movie is about a struggling Hollywood star and his bizarre past. The star, played by Daniel Craig, is a promiscuous, emotionally immature has-been who discovers that a childhood friend has passed away. Instead of casually reminiscing about his childhood while relaxing on his couch or listening to Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” over and over (which is a great way to relax, by the way), Joe Scot (Craig) decides to go for a semi-drunk swim. This, of course, brings about a rather long flashback, a flashback that lasts for nearly half of the movie and includes impromptu dancing, intergenerational intercourse, and unexploded mines.

Baillie Walsh, the writer/director, guides the audience through a beautiful cacophony of settings, camera angles, and storylines without regard for context or flow. This is Walsh’s first and only feature film, but that fact didn’t seem to stop the novice director from peppering the occasionally cliché film with some beautifully absurd scenes. The film is a constant war between art and kitsch, and Walsh doesn’t seem to care which side wins. Using the flashback gimmick as a weak invisibility cloak for randomness, Walsh embraces the kitsch of his protagonist’s childhood, and that willingness to flaunt cinematic spontaneity allows Walsh to blur the lines between gaudiness and beauty. The movie’s flashback scenes, as a whole, are like the contents of a particularly unique party mix—both delicious and unnerving—and their weirdness helps explain the protagonist’s reluctance to relive his past.

Flashbacks of a Fool encourages paradoxical descriptors. It is both fascinating and dull, gaudy and beautiful, kitschy and artsy, ignorant and self-aware, easy and confusing, complicated and simple. The video below (featuring the lovely Felicity Jones) is beauty without context. When the scene first appears in the film, it seems random and spontaneous, yet it is crucial to the film’s ending. Enjoy its beauty. Embrace its absurdity.

Baillie Walsh: Director

Baille Walsh: Writer

Daniel Craig, Harry Eden, and Felicity Jones: Stars