Bill Paxton as Carl Ridley
Agnes Bruckner as Pippa Ridley
Victor Rasuk as Fritz
Orlando Bloom as Shy
Stephen Dillane as Mr. Allen
Zoe Saldana as Andrea
Razaaq Adoti as Richie Rich
Lee Ingleby as Patrick
Anthony Mackie as Hammer
Joy Bryant as Sheila
Bobby Cannavale as Lieutenant
Directed by Frank E. Flowers
The Cayman Islands setting of Frank E. Flowers’ debut is intriguing, though the characters are sometimes hard to relate to and the story is so disjointed in the first hour that it’s hard to stay interested in them until things start coming together at the end.
Connections between a number of people living or staying on the Cayman Islands are explored in this intricate drama. There’s crooked businessman Carl Ridley and his teen daughter Pippa (Bill Paxton, Agnes Bruckner) who are there to hide from the FBI; Fritz (Victor Rasuk), a smart-assed youth always in trouble with the police and the local drug lord; Shy and Andrea (Orlando Bloom, Zoe Saldana) are having a romance behind the back of her angry older brother (Anthony Mackie); and Mr. Allen (Stephen Dillane), a corrupt lawyer having trouble connecting with his son Patrick (Lee Ingleby).
You have to give filmmaker Frank E. Flowers credit for getting his debut film “Haven” off the ground and assembling such a great cast to play the story’s diverse characters. It’s certainly an ambitious project, much like “Crash” or “Traffic,” in that it creates an intricate tale and starts to bring together all of the different characters as it gets to the final act.
At first, the movie seems to be about businessman Carl Ridley and his way-too-hot-for-virgin-status teen daughter Pippa, played by Bill Paxton and Agnes Bruckner, respectively. They’re on the run from the feds, leaving Miami for a bungalow on the Cayman Islands. There, Pippa meets a local troublemaker named Fritz, who brings her to a rowdy party and gets her stoned before they’re both arrested for breaking onto a boat. Before we learn what happens to them, we meet Orlando Bloom’s Shy, a poor young man who has worked as a boat hand on the island since seeing his father killed. He’s been romancing Andrea, the (also virginal) teen daughter of his rich black boss, which leads to a confrontation with her hateful older brother.
These two stories make-up the body of the movie, and they seem to have little to do with each other, except that one is about a rich outsider and the other is about a poor local boy. The relationship between Shy and Andrea is the more interesting one due to the Shakespearean nature of their forbidden love, causing many problems for them and their families. For whatever reason, Flowers decided not to get to their story until about 20 minutes into the movie, and when it does, you still feel like you’ve come into the story midway. Because of this, the first 45 minutes of the movie are very slow, and only gets more confusing when Shy’s story jumps forward six months to the present day i.e. the time where the movie began, making for an interesting but confusing non-linear way to start a story and then fill in the blanks later.
As the story unfolds, we see many of the same scenes from a number of different points of view. Characters in the background who don’t seem very important at first, end up having their own story arcs. This means it’s important to pay attention to the supporting characters in each story, as they all play a large part in how things turn out. Scenes that don’t seem to have any importance early in the movie end up being pivotal, and it’s the way that Flowers ties them together that’s so impressive.
Flowers has a strong cast, though you’d have to appreciate most of their previous work to enjoy them in these roles. Bill Paxton never really surpasses his best work, but Bloom does get to show a bit more acting range, especially after his character is scarred and he plays a more tormented version of the Shy character. Anthony Mackie, looking really young in the movie, probably since it was filmed over two years ago, isn’t bad as Shy’s nemesis, trying to defend his family’s name after his sister sleeps with Shy, and Stephen Dillane is entertaining as the story’s one true bad guy.
That aside, the only real breakthrough performance comes from Zoe Saldana, who does a great job realizing Andrea’s character arc as a teen girl who gives her virginity to the boy she loves, only to be forced by her father and brother to lie about it, sending her spiraling into a world of sex and drugs. If nothing else, the movie will be remembered for some of Saldana’s heartbreaking scenes.
Though Flowers’ writing is pretty solid, he uses too much camera and editing trickery to try to make the movie look like a stylish MTV video, but that does more to detract from the characters and their stories than add to the experience. Fortunately, he has the beautiful Cayman Islands as his background, and he gives a good view of the drugs, crime, police and financial corruption that permeates this tropical paradise. In some ways, the whole movie seems like a warped guided tour of the Cayman Islands that probably won’t do very much to increase tourism.
The Bottom Line:
There’s something off about this intricate drama that takes some time to get even remotely interesting, but Flowers does an impressive job tying the characters and their stories together. Once you learn the connections between all of them and see how the puzzle pieces fit together, it’s a far more interesting and worthwhile experience, but it just takes way too long to get there.