REEL Review – Wildfire (2020)

Director: Cathy Brady | 1h 25mins | Drama

After a year of being missing, Kelly (Nika McGuigan) returns home to the surprise of her Sister Lauren (Nora-Jane Noone). Together they must face the trauma that was left by their Mother who may or may not have killed herself.

Brady’s visceral debut is a bold telling of sisterhood and the connection of family through trauma. Lauren and Kelly’s journey is especially affective because of its embrace of the social relationship shared between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, so it’s even more fitting that Brady cunningly places the films setting at the border of the two countries.

The film begins with a little history lesson into the fragile relationship the two countries have, showing us montage of newsreels depicting the violent and explosive conflict that once happened, and how Brexit has begun to chip away at the foundations of peace. But the film is much more personal than that, only linking its core story rather than letting the political undertones takeover.

It’s never really explained where Kelly has been, she jumps on a ship and hitchhikes home which reignites a close and volatile relationship between the sisters. As people begin to ask questions about Kelly and her sanity Lauren gets defensive, as their bond grows stronger they begin to act in a youthful manor much like when they were children. They dance, stay out late and even go swimming in the river which flows through both countries – they like to float on the line of the border in order to be in two places at once, a fantastic way in which Bradly connects the social aspect of her story with the mindset people have when suffering trauma.

The movie is full of wonderful scenes that risk the inner chaos of trauma being unleashed in their characters, especially with Kelly who everyone likes to compare to her ‘incapable’ Mother.

Their trauma is that of their Mother’s death, which through gossip and unsure memories flutters between being a car crash or maybe suicide. The movie is full of wonderful scenes that risk the inner chaos of trauma being unleashed in their characters, especially with Kelly who everyone likes to compare to her ‘incapable’ Mother. One scene that is particularly moving is when Kelly breaks into her childhood home in order to see the pink bedroom she once lived in. As she focuses on her memories the noises of a Mother and her daughters laughing and playing rings overhead, a brief reminder of a time when Kelly was once happy.

The film builds and builds as the sister’s state worsens. the beginning of the film pits them against each other at times, working as a ticking time-bomb in which an argument is ready to happen, but as the film goes on the sister’s get closer as the lack of closure overcomes them. People don’t help by living in a world of gossip, and eventually they hit that wall that sends them into a spiral. The film’s ending sees the girls at the top of a cliff, the same cliff in which their Mother allegedly threw herself from, an ending that is predictable. However, it’s not predictable in the negative sense, the films trajectory and characters journey means that it’s a necessity – as if fate led them down this path with only one destination in mind.

It’s a frustrating watch, but it’s one that benefits from a layered story that parallels social conflict with personal trauma delicately. Brady is certainly someone with a strong voice to be heard, and she’s made herself loud and clear with a mature and tragedy-stricken feature debut.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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