Starring: Julia Roberts, Willem Dafoe, Ryan Reynolds, Emily Watson,Ioan Gruffudd, Carrie Anne Moss
Director: Dennis Lee
Writer(s): Robert Frost, Dennis Lee
Cinematography: Danny Moder
Original Score: Javier Navarrete
Running Time: 99 Mins.
Fireflies in the Garden should, in theory, fall into a very specific category of film, judging by its pedigree, based on a highly acclaimed novel with themes of family tragedy and loss, and starrring a weighty ensemble cast of all ages putting there most serious and pained faces on. Headlined by Julia Roberts, one would assume is enough to make Fireflies a bona-fide Oscar hopeful, but no it was released State-side soemtime ago and got toally lost amidst many other, and it must be said, weaker efforts along the same serious and weightly lines.
Now it finally makes its way over here and is once again lost amidst many other weaker films, the key thing that Fireflies is lacking is a big studio to push and market the film, relying therefore simply on word of mouth, something that seems to work with film’s here than it does elsewhere very often. Based on what I took from it I can only hope this is the case as it is a film which has been unfairly overlooked and while it may not be up there with the Oscar films it is certainly good enough to be considered a great drama.
Ti say too much of the plot would be to rob Fireflies of much of its intrigue but it is a story about fatherhood primarily and how being a father, be it good or more key here, bad, can effect the whole family, set in two eras, one where a couple, Roberts and Dafoe, are bringing up their son Michael (Cayden Boyd), and then some years later dealing with the aftermath of a tragedy, the whole family, including a grown up Michael (Ryan Reynolds) , try to come to terms not only with what has happened but what has happened in the past.
This being an weighty ensemble piece means broken marriages,child cruelty, incest and death are all touched upon by the vast, and uniformely excellent, cast. Reynolds and Dafoe are the standouts, Dafoe as we know is a class actor when he wants to be and here he wavers between pitiful and just plain nasty, almost villainous while Reynolds excels in showing he is capable of so much more than wise cracks and fluffy rom-coms. Showing greta vulnerability and longing to be accepted by his over bearing father yet all at once acting in such a care free manner you sypathise with his plight and fully invest in him as a character, an actor much more than one seeking plaudits for going serious, his Michael is real and entertaining in his performance.
Possibly because of the father/son dynamic the female cast emebers seem hugely toned down from their usual grandstanding, in particular Roberts and Watson, both excellent actresses who have a tendency to overdo the emotional Oscar vbaiting perfornamces here really slip nicely into their support parts well complimenting the ensemble rather than intentionally showboating the hell out of it i.e. Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain.
For all the excellent acting it was the direction that struck me as standout ,and I can’t help but feel Dennis Lee is one to watch, the opening shots are a wonder, something which continues throughout and much like his cast he excels without going overboard, each scene is shot superbly and there is a sense of the direction being used to set the story as well as tell it, it is very rare that images in a film are so memorable for this reason and usually it is performance or words that linger. I can’t help but feel spoilt with both on this occasion.
Only one thing struck me as a letdown and that was the alck of a good score, something which a drama of this ilk can live or die by, thankfully the opther elements are there to hold it all together but because a films music is so emotive and gives it it’s soul occasionally that is what is lacking at times during Fireflies. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes and is maybe a little too serious for its own good at times but these really are monir quibbles in an otherwise great drama that really shouldn’t be missed.
Dennis Lee is a director to watch, Fireflies in the Garden not only has an ensemble of great performances but looks the part, deserving a place with the rest of the years great drama’s.