13 April 2024
Burning Season read Freda Cooper's review

2024 Glasgow Film Festival Review – The Burning Season (2024)

Burning Season read Freda Cooper's review
It’s a familiar concept. The rocky, destructive love affair that breaks hearts but is so all-consuming that it’s addictive. And the relationship at the heart of Sean Garrity’s The Burning Season fits the bill perfectly but the director, and his writer/lead actor Jonas Chernick, have approached it from a different direction. It’s told backwards.

Let’s keep it linear for a moment. Alena (Sara Canning) and her husband Tom (Joe Pingue) have been visiting the Luna Lake holiday cabins every summer for years, but this latest trip isn’t a holiday. Their friends who run the resort, J B (Jonas Chernick) and Poppy (Tanisha Thammavongsa) are getting married but what should be the happiest of occasions ends in chaos when a long-running affair is thrown into the spotlight. That’s just the start – or you could say it’s the end – of a story that digs progressively deeper into a devastating relationship until all its secrets are revealed.

While it’s not the first time we’ve seen a story in reverse order (Harold Pinter’s Betrayal for one, although Christopher Nolan’s Memento comes close at times), it gives The Burning Season a clearly defined structure that adds weight to the romantic narrative. The sense of a detective story weaves in and out, as questions arise in each well-marked chapter and aren’t always answered. The reveal in the prologue – yes, it finishes the film – is in classic whodunnit style. As a whole, the film also marks a departure in tone for Garrity and Chernick: they’re on their home territory of looking at the complexities of love, but their usual comedic chops have been toned down, so the end result is harsher, sharper and wince-making moments are now designed to make you squirm, not smile. And they are decidedly uncomfortable.

Telling the story backwards certainly benefits the narrative, but the characters don’t come off so well. The illicit romance lacks a certain drama: we’re never quite sure why the two were attracted to each other and, given that we’ve seen the end, there’s no possibility they’ll ever get together so any inherent tension in their situation is simply rubbed out. It’s a weakness the film can never overcome and it does its small cast no favours, particularly Canning and Chernick who are both convincing and sympathetic as two people who, over the years, find they’ve backed themselves to a corner and have nowhere to go. And, despite its strengths, the same can be said for the film as a whole.

★★★

Playing as part of the 2024 Glasgow Film Festival / Sara Canning, Jonas Chernick, Joe Pingue, Tanisha Thammavongsa / Dir: Sean Garrity / Cert: tbc | Watch our interview with Jonas Chernick

 


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