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Burn, Burn, Burn


Stars: Laura Carmichael, Chloe Pirrie, Jack Farthing, Joe Dempsie, Alice Lowe, Hannah Artertonn, Alison Steadman, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Sally Phillips , Susan Wokoma, Nigel Planer

Director: Chanya Button

Possibly one of a reviewer’s most invaluable critical assets is the ability to allocate genres to movies, thus eliminating the need to reproduce the storyline in detail.

For example, take the road movie, defined as “a film of a genre in which the main character is travelling, either in flight or on a journey of self-discovery”.

A perfect critical short cut but also an almost inevitably confining one.

Burn, Burn, Burn Chanya Button’s moving directorial debut, could simply be categorized as a road movie in which we watch Carmichael and Pirrie on their demanding but compelling-to-watch, incident-filled drive across England and into Scotland.

The combination of Chanya Button’s moving directorial debut, a potent, emotionally true screenplay and exceptional performances by Carmichael, Pirrie and Jack Farthing in particular, combine to make this much more than simply a road movie.

Their mission, which they have chosen to accept, takes the twentysomething friends, romantically disturbed Carmichael, and Pirrie, still suffering from the trauma of having just found out that her lesbian lover is cheating on her, and their buddy Farthing from place to place to fulfill the latter’s last wishes.

Farthing is with them, but in spirit rather than in person. Having died of pancreatic cancer, his ashes are in a box carefully stashed away in the car’s glove compartment. But he lives on, and memorably, in a series of videos he has recorded (“I’ve been calling this Dan’s dongle” his father tells the travelling pair when he hands them the ‘key” to his late son’s videos) that guides the pair across country to dispose of his ashes, bit by bit…

All three key characters (Farthing’s increasingly moving to-camera portrayal of a dying man is in no way confined by appearing solely on the screen of laptop) are genuinely moving and memorable, as are their various experiences.

The self-described “Thelma and Louise plus Casper the Friendly Ghost” manage to ensure some ash scattering (not permitted!) at Glastonbury Abbey with a small tip, they enjoy a wild night with hippies led by a man with the “charisma of a benign Charles Manson” followed by waking up in a barn and dumping Manson and his mates at a petrol station, spend time with Pirrie's mother in Wales and giving a lift to a woman worried about being reunited with her son…

Genuine charm and credibility are rare in the cinema. Thanks to spot-on casting and performances to match, Burn, Burn, Burn blazed with credible charm, picture-perfect casting and performances, large and small. With well-chosen locations attractively photographed (by Carlos de Carvalho), the film is a genuine pleasure and definitely worthy (not always the case) of having been chosen for the London Film Festival.

Its London premiere was followed by winning the Grand Prix at the Odessa Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Umbria Film Festival, and the Audience Award at the Cinema City Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia.

All in all, an unexpected beautifully cut and polished small gem.

Alan Frank

USA 2016. UK Distributor: Verve Pictures Ltd. Colour.
104 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 30 Oct 2016