Introduced as a child, Alice Hart (Alyla Brown) lives in a state of constant threat at the hands of her abusive father, Clem (Charlie Vickers). She adores her mother, Agnes (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), who is captured almost as a mythical creature in the early chapters in how a child can view an adult they want to save. Mom can’t be human. She must be a selkie who can escape this horror. When Alice wanders into town one day, she catches the attention of a librarian named Sally (Asher Keddie), setting in motion a sequence of events that will lead to the death of Agnes and Clem, forcing Alice to go live with her grandmother June (Sigourney Weaver) on a flower farm called Thornfield that’s actually a women’s shelter. At first, Alice doesn’t speak, but the other residents of the farm, particularly Candy (Frankie Adams) and June’s partner Twig (Leah Purcell), help her recover.
June Hart is a fascinating character, a distant, cold woman who seems almost put out by having Alice around even though she fights with Sally for custody of the child. The narrative jumps halfway through the season to Alice as a young adult (now played excellently by Alycia Debnam-Carey), and several decisions that June made in that time-leap come to the fore, which she thought were protecting Alice but at a great cost. The final stretch of the season also gives June a disease, which seems manipulative at first, but allows Weaver some of the richest dramatic material of her career as she comes to terms with the choices she made, the traumas that shaped her, and how both planted the seeds for Alice’s lost flowers.
“The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart” is clearly a melodrama, but Ivin centers character and setting over manipulative plotting in its best chapters. He alternates shots that linger on minor details with gorgeous shots of the Australian landscape from cinematographer Sam Chiplin, set to a moody, effective score by Hania Rani. It’s a remarkably well-made piece of adult drama, even if the pace undeniably drags at times. In the era of “Everything is the Wrong Length,” it truly does feel like there’s a great 130-minute-or-so movie in this story. But that version would admittedly lose the show’s accumulation of small joys and how the writers let these excellent performers live in these roles instead of just running in and out of the spotlight.