Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


TIFF 2020 Review: Wildfire

Image courtesy of TIFF

Sibling relationships are rarely simple.  Such is the case for Kelly (Nika McGuigan) and Lauren (Nora-Jane Noone), sisters close in age, but geographically separated over the last year.  Both of their parents are gone now, their father having passed away in an act of terrorism during The Troubles, a decades-long conflict between loyalists, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK, and nationalists who wished for it to become part of the Republic of Ireland. >Struggles with the border still remain, especially in light of Brexit which has complicated matters exponentially, making this film even more timely. That theme of unity and separation runs through Cathy Brady’s directorial debut, Wildfire.

Check out all of our TIFF coverage

Kelly has been missing for a year.  Fearing the worst, Lauren had given up hoping for her return.  However one night, after travelling back to Ireland by ferry, Kelly shows up on her doorstep, no explanation about where she’s been, no apology for the worry she has caused.  While Lauren is initially angered by her sister’s unexpected return, they soon fall back into step, reminiscing over family memories.  These memories largely centre around their mother, who died in circumstances that slowly unfold as the movie progresses.  However just as a wildfire starts with a spark and quickly spreads destruction, so too does Kelly’s presence upend Lauren’s life.  

Wildfire doesn’t always work, being a little too obvious with some of its metaphors, though the idea to thematically follow the reunited sisters as they build their relationship against the backdrop of Ireland navigating a new Brexit reality is certainly intriguing. However, the film’s third act doesn’t quite pack the emotional punch that had been building up to that point.  There is also a lot to like about this directorial debut, as Cathy Brady’s talented eye behind the camera appears more than confident.  Her visual use of colour (especially as noted in a red jacket as worn by the girls’ mother) is striking, and she is able to easily depict the intense intimacy between these two women bonded through trauma.

However, without the two leads, Wildfire would likely not have ignited at all. As the two sisters try and face the trauma of their family history their journey helps solidify their relationship, though whether that’s for the greater good remains to be seen. Nora-Jane Noone and Nika McGuigan have a palpable chemistry, especially as the two girls get wrapped up in one another’s self destructive ways.  McGuigan is particularly strong here, making it even more appropriate that the film is dedicated to her.  She unfortunately passed away in 2019 due to cancer, Wildfire being her last leading role.

Wildfire succeeds more than it misfires at presenting themes of generational mental health, healing, grief and unity at its forefront.  The past, whether you’re a family or a country, always affects the present.  Wildfire also introduces us to Cathy Brady as a feature filmmaker, and if this is any indication her future directorial work should certainly be something to watch. <

Previous PostNext Post


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.