Wildflower movie still
Credit: Momentum Pictures

Wildflower (2022) is a 2023 release that follows the same template as the Oscar-winning movie CODA (2021). But instead of a plucky teen with promise having a deaf mom and dad, she’s being raised by intellectually disabled parents. Or rather, she is looking after them which obviously can be a challenge for a high schooler. Nevertheless, this coming-of-age pic offers a light touch when relaying the humorous, heartfelt, and hopeful sides of life. 

The dramedy centers on Bambi Johnson (Kiernan Shipka), self-nicknamed Bea. She’s a smart senior in school whose days are more devoted to holding her family together than having fun and planning for her own future. Least ways, not at the start of the story.

Shipka, who many may recognize as Sally Draper from Mad Men (2007-2015), proves she has the acting chops to carry a film. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she is supported by a convincing cast — including autistic actress Samantha Hyde as Bea’s mother.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012) alums Dash Mihok and Jacki Weaver reunite to portray Bea’s father and grandmother, respectively. The first-rate ensemble also features Ryan Kiera Armstrong (as grammar school Bea); Jean Smart and Brad Garrett (as Bea’s maternal grandparents); Alexandra Daddario and Reid Scott (as Bea’s aunt and uncle); and Charlie Plummer (as Bea’s boyfriend).

The script by Jana Savage and the film’s director Matt Smukler is based on true events. As such, there’s an authenticity to the characters and their exchanges, both comic and dramatic. The dialogue, for example, sounds more realistic than the cute punchlines and clichéd speeches found in CODA.

Although Wildflower covers serious issues, it never surrenders to melodrama. At 105 minutes, it’s an enjoyable movie that deftly covers a pivotal chapter in an exceptional girl’s life. This recommended film can be streamed on Hulu and rented on other platforms.


Ms. Arvia is a Rebellious columnist and movie critic; entertainment ghostwriter; award-winning artist; and grant-winning filmmaker.