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By Mark Bell | September 11, 2013

After the latest in a long line of poor choices for a boyfriend, Connor (Beau Ballinger), lets her down, Kristin (Anthea Murfet) meets musician Shane (Richard Herrera). The two hit it off, quickly falling for each other. Their new found romance encounters a pretty massive obstacle, however, when Kristin’s mother, Cynthia (Gigette Reyes), reveals a secret she’s been carrying for a long time. Turns out our new couple have more in common than just a love for one another.

Brian Patrick’s Chasing Fire tackles a sensitive subject with a tonally confused focus. The film mixes elements of over-the-top theatricality with saccharine sweet moments of romance, coupled with melodrama, violent action and even a pretty brutal crime by its end. This shifting tone leaves an overall feeling of uneasiness throughout.

Which is not to say that some of the choices aren’t interesting. The idea that Kristin’s mother filters everything through her overly dramatic lens, and thus her feelings and stories are depicted in the film as moments from a staged performance, is a fun way to bring something different to the film. The, perhaps unintended, side effect, however, is that the theatricality can act as parody for real emotions, and thus when a sequence requires a real emotional connection, a side-step into stage craft undermines the moment and, for the rest of the film, whenever Mom has something emotional to impart, it comes off as false.

To be honest, though, whenever things truly hit the drama button, and this goes for pretty much everyone, the performances begin to feel forced anyway. The subplots involving organ transplants and the main climactic tragic event seem to exist in an entirely different movie, and serve more as a distraction, or an unnecessary way to amp up the drama in a story that otherwise could exist, and excel, as a taboo love story, given the chance to focus solely on those elements.

And the love story has its more natural moments, where it truly works and engages, and it has its stilted moments of awkward dialogue where it doesn’t work. It’s truly a mixed bag, but I think it succeeds more often than it doesn’t. It’s hard to fault performance considering some of the dialogue, but it’s also hard to praise it.

Technically, the film is competent enough. The aforementioned stageplay elements stand out, and the editorial flow does a great job with the more action packed elements. The audio mix can sometimes be a bit quiet for comfort, but for the most part it isn’t that distracting. The film isn’t tripped up by the technical side of things.

In its best moments, Chasing Fire leaves one to question the meaning of love, and can get your mind spinning about what’s right and wrong. In the majority of its moments, however, the film seems to be throwing a lot at you, hoping that it’ll all stick and make for a dramatic experience when, it truth, it just makes for an uncomfortable one (and not in that welcome “challenging cinema” way). The film’s climax, in particular, goes brutal in a way that you never see coming, that feels unnecessary, and then lets you down with its character choices in a way that flies in the face of elements that have come directly before it. The film isn’t elevated by its ending, it is let down by it.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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