Desert Bloom

Director: Eugene Corr
Screenwriters: Eugene Corr

Institute History


Desert Bloom is a quiet and subtle film with force and deep emotional reverberations, about the coming of age of a young girl. The setting is Las Vegas, 1950. A time of atomic testing in the surrounding deserts. Rose (Annabeth Gish) is thirteen years old. Life should be opening up its possibilities to Rose, but she seems destined to lose the adolescent struggle for self-assurance and confidence. Her family is part of the problem. Jack (Jon Voight), her father, is an emotionally and physically wounded WWII vet. An alcoholic, he revels in past glories while, inside, he hovers on the verge of breakdown. Isolated in a back room, he maintains a neurotic vigil on his short-wave radio, his last connection to the world. LIly (Jobeth Williams) puts on the ‘50’s happy face of mother and wife, playing out each role until the pressures become unbearable.

When her aunt Starr unexpectedly arrives, Rose finds her role model. this street-wise Marilyn Monroe look-alike, beautifully and vivaciously played by Ellen Barkin, gives Rose the attention an encouragement she secretly craves. The bubble bursts when Rose witnesses a drunken seduction between Starr and her father. She is shattered and, on the eve of an atomic test, runs away. The atomic explosion is not used in Desert Bloom as an obvious and trite metaphor for a family breaking up, “exploding” passions, etc. Rather, it suggests something of the young girl’s coming of age, a moment of such pain and proportion that returning to innocence is impossible. Her witnessing the seduction and subsequent flight into the desert are the climatic scenes of the film. But it is her return to and reconciliation with her family that signals in Rose a new maturity, hope and understanding. Suddenly, painfully, she has become a woman.

Screening Details

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