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Film / The Gladiolus

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The Gladiolus is a 2017 film from Mongolia, directed by Delgerbayar Purevdorj.

Khongorzul is a schoolteacher and principal of maybe 40 years of age, and she has some problems. Her husband recently left her for a younger woman. Her little son Jargal has suffered some sort of injury or illness that has left him in a wheelchair, and he is undergoing grueling physical therapy in order to re-learn how to walk. And if that isn't enough, her 19-year-old daughter Tsetseg is having an affair with Tugsuu, a drug dealer 10 years her senior.

That last leads to bigger problems. Khongorzul goes to Tugsuu's apartment to return her daughter's keys, but she sees an argument between Tugsuu, Tsetseg, and another woman that leads to all of them stalking off. Key in hand, Khongorzul yields to temptation and enters Tugsuu's apartment. He catches her there, and tries to rape her, but she grabs a handy candlestick and bashes his head in with it. Now she has a bigger problem. Khongorzul stuffs Tugsuu's body into a large suitcase, drives out of Ulaanbaatar into the countryside, digs a grave, and buries Tugsuu and his suitcase under a tree.

Enter Lt. Dandar, a detective with the Ulaanbaatar police department. Dandar's life isn't exactly perfect either. He is nearing retirement, and generally burned out on police work. His oldest son, who followed his footsteps into the police, was killed in the line of duty. And his wife has left him. Dandar, investigating his last case, faces a crisis of conscience when he uncovers the truth about Khongorzul.


  • As You Know: A lot of this from the two cops who are waiting for Lt. Dandar at a crime scene. One says "Has he not retired yet?" and mentions how he used to be a great cop. The other says "He has a solid reputation for integrity."
  • Attempted Rape: Tugsuu tries to rape Khongorzul, which is why she bashes his head in with a candlestick.
  • Dead-Hand Shot: The blood-spattered hand of the dead guy outside the front door of Khonzorgul's apartment building. This is when we first see Dandar, as he's called out to investigate the crime, but it turns out to be a red herring, as the guy who was stabbed to death outside the building has nothing to do with Khonzorgul's story.
  • Dutch Angle: A dramatic Dutch Angle underscores Khongorzul's shock, as it pans around the apartment in the moments after she killed Tugsuu.
  • Flipping the Bird: After Tsetseg's father meets her and tries to act conciliatory, Tsetseg flips him the bird. She's pretty bitter about him leaving the family for a younger woman.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Khonzorgul is pretty strongly pro-life, as she insists that Tsetseg not have an abortion and carry her dead scumbag's boyfriend to term. In the last scene Tsetseg is toting a baby boy.
  • Let Off by the Detective: After Khonzorgul confesses and shows Dandar where the body is buried, he lets her off the hook. He has her re-bury the body, he hides the security cam footage, and he keeps quiet a witness who saw Khonzorgul in the area. It may be because Tugsuu was a lout, it may be because he sees how badly Khonzorgul's family needs her, or it may be because he's falling for her, but whatever the cause, he lets her go free.
  • Maybe Ever After: Khonzorgul and her family make a trip to the country to see Dandar in his cabin by the river, after Dandar retires. The smiles they give each other right before the credits roll hint that there may be romance in the future.
  • Monochrome Past: All the flashbacks—Dandar's wife leaving him for America, Dandar being told of his son's death—are in monochrome.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Dandar whiles away the time in his crude little shack by examining chess puzzles on a board.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: And Tsetseg is not happy about it, finding out that she's two months pregnant after Tugsuu has disappeared.
  • Splash of Color: The Monochrome Past flashbacks are accompanied with this. When Khonzorgul tumbles out of her car, the flashback is in monochrome but the blood on her hand is bright red. When Dandar's wife and granddaughter leave him for a life in America, the flashback is in monochrome but the granddaughter's teddy bear is a bright yellow.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Tsetseg after she gets up from the bed after sex with Tugsuu.
  • Visual Title Drop: The gladiolus flower that little Jargal is growing. In the early scenes Jargal, confined to a wheelchair, is planting the flower as a seedling. In the last scene, the flower has grown straight and tall, and Jargal is running around on two legs.
  • Wall Slump: The emotional shock variation of this trope, as Khongorzul slumps down against the wall after bashing Tugsuu's skull in.