It becomes obvious in the opening moments of Fading Petals that we are not in for a movie with a lot of spectacle, William Cunningham's original music immersing us into an atmosphere that simultaneously feels emotionally resonant and more than a little suffocating. This is not inappropriate we quickly learn as we meet a young woman (Charlotte Reidie) who has been hired to provide care for an increasingly incapacitated elderly woman (Melanie Revill).
The two do not immediately hit it off, an initial conflict giving pause to this pending arrangement before the two gingerly move forward perhaps more out of need than out of want. This elderly woman, whose name is never revealed, isn't a particularly enjoyable woman to support as she antagonizes her carer regularly.
Still, the young woman, whose name is also never revealed, keeps coming back and eventually the two seem to form something resembling a bond.
Until the young woman doesn't return.
Fading Petals is an indie drama for adults, a patiently paced film with a consistent yet far from monotonous tone. It's essentially a character drama centered around these two people, both having more in common than they initially realize and yet both also wearing their own individual masks in bids to put their pasts behind them and to somehow set aside that which may very well have come to define them.
This is not a particularly unique story, though it's given a fresh coat of paint by writer/director Bradley Charlton, a U.K.-based filmmaker who filmed Fading Petals during the pandemic in just 11 days with a crew of five. It's an indie film for sure and, yes, sometimes that's quite obvious. More often than not, however, Fading Petals tells the type of story that actually benefits from not having a lot of money and technology thrown at it. This is a simple story told simply.
And that, at least for the most part, works quite nicely.
Both Reidie and Revill perform quite ably here, finding all the little nuances here for characters who are initially only thin until their fuller dimensions begin to reveal themselves. There's a believable chemistry between the two, tension-filled yet with an authentic connection that feels natural. While much of the film takes place in the home of the elderly woman, Charlton incorporates the occasional flashback, with mixed success, and the occasional outside scene affording opportunities to shine for Tom Metcalf as The Young Man and Gary Raymond as the young woman's abusive father.
Lensing by Oliver Rigby is enveloping and feels as muted as are these souls. Rigby immerses us in this world and demands that we stay to understand it the best we can.
In some ways, it feels like Fading Petals tries to accomplish too much yet it's impossible to not admire and be completely engaged with the story from beginning to end. These are two characters who draw us in and we undeniably become invested in who they were, who they are, and who they aspire to be.
Fading Petals is an engaging film and a film that demands we look inward and reflect upon the past and whether it can ever truly be forgiven or forgotten. Fading Petals is available on Apple TV.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic