Fire Song says a lot until someone speaks.
Taking place in a Northern Ontario reserve, Adam Garnet Jones’ drama provides movie goers with an intimate look at the tragic themes that loom over First Nations people. As we watch closeted gay teenager Shane (Andrew Martin) live through his destitute strife, audiences witness his feelings of abandonment, suppressed sexuality, and desperation. Shane’s ambitions to further his education in college are frequently judged by nearby pessimism from locals and hindered by an impoverished upbringing. Jones also links these heavy issues and emotions through the timely topic of suicides within the Aboriginal community.
Fire Song is a shoestring labour of love. It’s a film where the messages are greater than its individual attributes. That said, Jone’s cast is an ensemble of amateur performers who have passion for the subject but lack qualification as actors. It’s easy to be forgiving during these endeavours to a point. However, Fire Song exceeds that limit, and often has viewers pondering if certain roles should’ve been recast altogether. The same shabbiness can be reflected towards Jone’s self-penned script, which is filled with stilted inner dialogue trying to pass for natural conversation.
Just as last week’s The People Garden evoked better memories of The Oxbow Cure, Fire Song made me appreciate Majdi El-Omari’s atmospheric indie Standstill. Standstill wasn’t about the same topics, but it illustrated a similar commentary for how a certain demographic feels transparent in today’s society – Standstill did this in silence.
The only scene that truly works in Fire Song is a poignant finale that is portrayed with sparse dialogue. All of the featured actors are suddenly in their own effectual element, and are telling a story with their face. When David’s mother cries on him, her mere tears marked on his shirt are enough to pull our heartstrings. It’s a remarkable, revelatory scene that should’ve acted as more of an influence over Adam Garnet Jones’ potent production.
Fire Song hits Toronto‘s Carlton Cinema on Friday, May 13 with a filmmaker Q&A after select screenings.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie