John Roberts’ Day of the Flowers (2013), starring Cuban ballet star Carlos Acosta, benefits from its central conceit – the clash of Scottish and Cuban culture. It’s an original idea, cleverly executed. As different as chalk and cheese, sisters Rosa (Eva Birthistle) and Ailie (Charity Wakefield) rarely see each other. Rosa’s an activist who’s always tramping the streets of Glasgow for good causes and trying to change the world. Her little sister is more interested in clothes and make-up. They’re thrown together at their father’s funeral where they learn that their step mum (Phyllis Logan) intends to turn their father’s ashes into a golf ornament.
Horrified, elder sibling Rosa decides to make a run for it with the deceased’s remains in her handbag. Their mother and father had been happiest when working together in Cuba, supporting the revolutionary cause, so Rosa decides to travel to the Caribbean island and scatter her father’s ashes during the annual ‘Day of the Flowers’ festival. Led by a curious collection of postcards, photographs and receipts he left behind, Rosa believes her mother’s remains are already there. She asks her kilt-wearing socialist friend Conway (Bryan Dick) to accompany her, but both are dismayed when Ailie turns up at the airport, dressed for a beach holiday and determined to come along for the ride. As they travel through Cuba en route towards Trinidad, the trio must inevitably undergo various misadventures.
Their saviour is local tourist guide Tomas (Acosta) who, they discover, is also a ballet teacher. His world-class status as a dancer also allows for a wonderful scene in a nightclub (reminiscent of John Travolta’s heroics in Pulp Fiction). Acosta, in his first feature film role, is something of a revelation. He has a commanding screen presence and his physicality and smouldering looks are bound to set hearts racing. An engaging, character-driven drama in which family secrets are uncovered, some of the situations in which Day of The Flowers’ sisters find themselves may be a little far-fetched, but this is more than made up for by Vernon Layton’s sumptuous cinematography, which captures Cuba’s natural beauty, its vibrant culture and hinting at a darker side less often seen by tourists.