USA, 1984, 122 min
Shown in 2006
COMMENTSShowed as a part of tribute to Ed Harris, recipient of the 2006 Peter J. Owens Award.
After his breakthrough performance as astronaut John Glenn in The Right Stuff (1983) (which earned him the cover of Newsweek), a career of portraying all-American heroes seemed lined up for Ed Harris. He responded by bravely heading in the opposite direction and took on the role of Jimmy Wing in Victor Nuñez’s low-budget, heartfelt A Flash of Green. Conflicted and disillusioned, Jimmy is light years away from the heroic and confident John Glenn. A small-town newspaper reporter along the Florida Gulf, he is waiting for that “flash of green,” a Gulf mirage said to occur during sunset. Caring for his dying wife is the only heroic thing that Jimmy does, counterbalanced by the very unheroic act of taking bribes to help a boyhood friend, now an unscrupulous politician, to blackmail opponents of an environmentally disastrous development project. Harris avoids the black/white, hero/villain portrayals endemic to much of commercial cinema; he’s instead simply human, neither worse nor better, just far more uncertain about life and what he wants out of it. “I fell in love with this character and the script,” Harris said in a 1985 New York Times article. “I finally feel like I’m doing what I set out to do when I started acting.” Long out of distribution and unavailable on video, A Flash of Green is ripe for rediscovery, thanks to Harris’s early performance and its feel for the specific ambience and individuals of the Gulf. In a 2001 London Film Festival interview, Harris named it one of his three favorite films.