Q&A: IMTIAZ ALI
The dysfunctional family of Netflix’s House of Flowers makes for addictive TV
DDysfunctional families make for good television. Dig deep enough into a seemingly perfect family and there’s a Pandora’s box of drama to uncover—from the hypersexual Forrester family of The Bold and the Beautiful to the sanskaari Virani family of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.
The Spanish-language drama La Casa de las Flores (House of Flowers) by Manolo Caro, which debuted on Netflix (August 10), takes the classic trope and runs with it. The series revolves around the De La Moras, a high society Mexican family runs a successful flower shop. Like Narcos, the show was filmed in Latin America.
The opening few minutes set up the story: the husband’s mistress hangs herself in the flower shop on his birthday. She leaves behind two children, a letter for the wife, and lots of chaos. For the viewers, Roberta returns from the grave as a narrator.
The family struggles to deal with the betrayal, while trying to keep upappearances. The storyline segues into smaller subplots, dealing with different characters— the foreign-returned daughter, Elena; the confused son, Julian; the nosy neighbour Carmelita, and the house help, Delia.
As the episodes progress, more secrets tumble out— debt, a closeted gay character, a sex change operation, an affair, a sex tape, and an illegitimate child. The dead Roberta also owned her own House of Flowers, a cabaret.
Each episode is named after a flower that also reflects its theme. The Lily, for example, symbolises freedom, so the episode named for that bloom focuses on a coming out story.
It’s the women who hold the series, and the family, together. Cecilia Suárez stands out for her portrayal of Paulina, the oldest daughter. Verónica Castro plays the matriarch Virginia with aplomb. The show also suffers from some stock elements that feel worn out: the token black character, a crotchety neighbour who is ‘cured’ by sex and a drug angle (it is Mexico, after all). Nevertheless, the drama is addictive and the story of a family trying to portray itself as perfect even while it crumbles from within, is at once compelling and familiar.