This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors who are currently on strike, series like Nancy Drew would not be possible, and Autostraddle is grateful for the artists who do this work. The following review of The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart contains very mild spoilers.
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is a dark but lovely tale of a group of Flowers trying to survive in a world where weeds and pests threaten them at every turn. It’s a languid tale that takes its time, like a long and lazy summer stroll through a garden, never rushing to the next moment, never hurrying to explain itself. It takes its time unfurling stories about secrets, lies, cycles of abuse, physical and emotional violence at the hands of men, and the importance of found family and having a support system.
All of this, of course, centered around the titular Alice Hart, played by Alycia Debnam-Carey, in a role rare for her for two reasons: one, she actually gets to smile and laugh sometimes in like one whole episode; two, she gets to use her real Australian accent.
Unfortunately she is not back to playing queer again (yet?) despite what I would categorize as flirting between her and Vivienne Awosoga’s Lulu, so that’s not what I’ve come to report about today. Today I’m here to bring you the good news that one of the lesbians in this show is none other than Sigourney Weaver. Ripley, believe it or not. (Sorry.)
Sigourney Weaver plays June, Alice’s grandmother, leader of a flower farm with her partner in work and in love Twig, played by Wentworth alum Leah Purcell. (In fact, there are a few Wentworth alum here, including Frankie Adams, who plays Candy Blue, and Shareena Clanton, who plays Ruby. As I learned when I wrote about Deadloch, Australian TV is a bit like Canadian TV in that you’ll see the same actors pop up in popular shows more often than you might on US television. It’s quite fun.)
The first few episodes follow Alice as a little girl (played by outstandingly talented tiny human Alyla Browne) growing up with her lovely mother and her abusive father, until she finds herself orphaned and ends up on the flower farm with her grandmother June, who she had previously never met.
The flower farm also serves as a sanctuary for women leaving abusive situations, a safe haven while they figure out what’s next for them; or, for some, their new forever home. We watch Alice, with the help of the women on the farm (the Flowers) and a sweet little boy named Oggi, heal from her grief and her trauma and start to bloom into a self-assured young woman.
A young woman who learns that her grandmother has been lying to her.
June, in trying to end a cycle of abuse, in her misguided attempts to protect her granddaughter from men like her son and her son’s father, actually ends up perpetuating it. Instead of keeping Alice informed and educated to protect herself from abuse, June inadvertently ends up causing her harm by keeping secrets and lying and meddling, effectively taking away Alice’s agency, granted in a different and less violent way than her father ever did, but taking it away nonetheless.
When you’ve spent years being abused, it’s hard to untangle yourself from it. When you have spent your life with those vines tight around you, choking you, pinning you down, it might be easy to see trapping someone in a greenhouse free of vines as a mercy. It’s easy to think you’re not causing harm because there are no marks on their skin, but words and lies can hurt just as much as thorns can. A locked door doesn’t just keep dangers out, but it keeps children in. They may be free from physical harm but they’re also free of choice, free of independence. And never teaching them about how to look out for those vines, the signs of poison, never teaching them how to untangle themselves should they find themselves in harm’s way because you assume you can always keep them from it…it’s just setting them up for failure when they do, eventually, break free from your “protection.” You can’t break a cycle of abuse by refusing to acknowledge it.
The show’s seven episodes take place over 15 years, and as I mentioned, it takes its time doing so. It’s not in a hurry to get to the end of the story, it’s just enjoying the journey, stopping to smell the flowers, nurse a bee sting, or, more literally, to show stunning sweeping overhead shots of Australia. The fictional Agnes Bluff and Mia Tukurta National Park crater are filmed in New South Wales and the Northern Territory, and are just visually absolutely stunning.
June and Twig remain at the center of this story, their domestic partnership plants them as the matriarchs of this found family, with their adoptive daughter Candy Blue helping them run the farm and raise Alice.
No matter how things go wrong, no matter how hard things get, June has Twig and Twig has June. They aren’t each other’s first loves, but their last, and perhaps their best.
The story is about their family, about June’s biological son and granddaughter, about the Flowers they’ve taken in along the way, but there were times I wished we learned more about those Flowers. We got glimpses of them, of Boo being a quirky presence around the house, of the women gathering for dinner, but I wanted to know them all better. Maybe this is a result of June benign adept at keeping people at arm’s length, maybe that would have taken too much time away from the long overhead shots (which I wouldn’t dare suggest), but I think it would have been impactful.
Overall, I really enjoyed this show. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is a story of abuse and regret, and also it’s a story about healing, about solidarity and strength, about it never being too late to apologize when you’ve caused harm, and about survivors of abuse supporting each other.
It’s about wildflowers learning how to bloom.