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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Fire Song movie review: finding a path through a broken world

Fire Song green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

A sensitive portrait, but often a wretched one, of young people at crossroads, set on a Canadian First Nations reservation but with resonance far beyond.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Shane (Andrew Martin) had been hoping to escape from his rundown First Nations reservation in rural northern Ontario for university in Toronto, but his plans are on hold since his sister committed suicide… an act that has mystified everyone; no one knew how sad she was. (We slowly begin to see the sort of pressure she would have been under as a young woman here.) His widowed mother is paralyzed by grief, their house is literally falling apart, and Shane is struggling to support them both and find money for repairs. But it’s not only the lack of economic opportunity in his dead-end town that frustrates Shane: he’s gay in a very traditional community, and his secret boyfriend, David (Harley Legarde), is hesitating to leave for the city with him. And though his girlfriend, Tara (Mary Galloway) — who does not know his truth — agrees to run away with Shane, is that really what he wants? Canadian filmmaker Adam Garnet Jones, making his feature debut, drew on his own Aboriginal heritage to create this bleak tale of young people at sea in a world that has little to offer them, and one in which even the bare tendrils of hope they might glimpse may be withdrawn at any moment. This is a sensitive portrait, but often a wretched one, of young people at crossroads that offer no easy option no matter what they choose. Half plea for understanding and compassion and half wail of despairtweet at the mundanity of the social breakdown it depicts, Fire Song resonates far beyond the marginalized indigenous culture it is set intweet: its reality is much too familiar.

green light 3.5 stars

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Fire Song (2016) | directed by Adam Garnet Jones
US/Can release: direct to DVD

MPAA: not rated

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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