Canadian Film Fest ’24: The Burning Season

Movie goers who have been caught rolling their eyes at “chapter narratives” will be pleasantly surprised by Sean Garrity’s The Burning Season, a reversed romantic drama that unravels an affair between two star-crossed lovers.

Over a course of several summers, Alena (Prodigals’ Sara Canning) and her partner Tom (Joe Pingue of See For Me) stay at the secluded Luna Lake Resort where the acquainted owner JB (Jonas Chernick, last seen in The End of Sex) welcomes them with open arms. Unbeknownst to Tom or Luna Lake employee-turn-JB’s partner Poppy (Tanisha Thammavongsa), Alena and JB have history together at the resort which they cope with in dysfunctional ways that only make sense to them.

Beginning with a blow-up at JB and Poppy’s wedding and working backwards towards the anthesis of the shared trauma between JB and Alena, The Burning Season is a refreshing take on heartache. Director Garrity (I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight) along with screenwriters Diana Frances and Chernick deal with uncomfortable feelings between these couples without spinning this perceptive character piece into a cynical exercise nitpicking the pitfalls of relationships. Despite following very specific storytelling restrictions and continuity, the small central cast – all sporting strong performances – consistently maintains loose and amiable chemistry with each other.

The Burning Season only loses its grip towards the end, when Canning and Chernick are swapped out for younger versions and new actors are brought in to portray their parents. These angsty scenes feel like they belong in a different movie, either because of melodramatic tension or a lack of time spent on this period. Garrity bookending this late climax with earlier scenes barely saves face.

The Burning Season screens at Toronto’s Canadian Film Festival on Saturday, March 23 at 7:30 pm at Scotiabank Theatre.


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