Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fireflies in the Garden: Movie Review


The very picture of an irreversibly dysfunctional family.

“Fireflies in the Garden” is one of those rare movies where a stellar cast and script based on a Robert Frost poem (!) could not get itself a release. Four years later, it got a straight-to-DVD release. And for good reason, it’s really bad. It’s a dysfunctional family drama where the characters are messed up from beginning to middle to end. There is no relief, comedy or otherwise, from the dysfunction. 2008 (2012 DVD Release)

Directed by: Dennis Lee

Screenplay by: Dennis Lee

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Willem Dafoe, Emily Watson, Julia Roberts

It starts with the guise that perhaps it’s not dysfunctional from the very beginning, but no, it is. I made the mistake of reading the back of the DVD case, where I was informed that the Taylors are the very picture of a happy and successful American family. I wonder what constitutes a successful family: Is it the father emotionally and physically abusing his son? Or the husband emotionally and physically abusing his wife? Or the inappropriate relationship between aunt and nephew? Because all of that was conveyed to us in the first two scenes. Not from the very first minute did I confuse this family as a happy and successful one.

The film also implies that the family wants to get out from their past and start afresh. Whether they want to or not, that’s not going to happen because they don’t even know what a happy and successful family looks like let alone how to be one.

The now grown up son, Michael (Ryan Reynolds) has returned home along with his sister and aunt and father (Willem Dafoe). Michael is a writer because it’s the classic profession to be able to rid yourself of past demons. I was expecting a sort of mystery to develop as the film certainly did imply that each character was hiding something. Of course they were hiding things – repressed emotions. Which doesn’t build to a mystery but melodrama.

The title refers to the Frost poem but also one of their childhood activities. Along with everyone I know, on warm summer evenings when the fireflies would be out in their brilliant glory, we would catch them in jars, keep them in our bedrooms, trying to savour the magic of the night. But not the Taylor kids. On warm summer evenings when the glowing fireflies were out, they would go and kill them. Any sympathy was instantly lost, never to be regained.


Jesus Henry Christ (2011) - Eccentricity and precociousness put to the paternal test with hilarious results.

Peep World (2010) - A true comedy that you don't have to hold up a mirror for.

Janie Jones (2010) - A subtle father-daughter story told with quiet undertones.