Film Review - Portraits from a Fire (2021)

Still image of Tyler on his bmx bike in Portraits from a Fire.

Portraits from a Fire is a touching BC made film that follows a teenage boy who fills his free time by making home movies on his hand held camera. Tyler spends much of his time alone since his father is away often for work and his mother is not in the picture. He uses his brilliant imagination to create fantasy and sci-fi story lines that he plays out with the help of his cardboard co-stars. After his father Gord missed his last screening Tyler’s loneliness starts to have a deep impact on his self-esteem and he feels like giving up his movie making aspirations.

One day when his father is away at work, Tyler discovers a video cassette that has footage of his parents when they were younger with a small infant. It’s a glimpse into a happier time for Tyler’s family. He doesn’t have any memories of his mother and no one is even allowed to speak of her without breaking a promise to Gord. Tyler is still grieving a mother he never knew. All he wants is to have some sort of connection to her and a relationship with his Dad. Tyler holds a deep seeded belief that it’s all his fault that his mother left them. Flashes of memories that aren’t his start to haunt his waking life.

On one of his filming escapades Tyler encounters an older boy Aaron. They quickly become friends and Aaron encourages Tyler to make another movie.

“Your camera keeps the past alive. It even changes the past, how it’s remembered. How people who are dead can still be seen”.

Tyler is inspired once again to create a new film but this time it’s more personal as he interweaves footage from the cassette he found with clips of himself speaking to the camera as if he’s speaking to the mother he never knew. It’s not until he screens his recent masterpiece that family secrets are finally revealed.

I really loved this film. It’s sweet and funny at times and heartbreaking and sad at times. I think a lot of people can relate to that feeling you had as a kid that you just want to know that you matter, especially if you grew up in a broken home. The desire to connect with a distant parent is so strong and to finally be told that it’s not your fault for your parents failed marriage. If any of this speaks to you or your childhood experiences you’re gonna want to catch this film in theatres.

Portraits from a Fire is screening now at Landmark Cinemas in New Westminster and coming to VOD across Canada on all major platforms Nov 9.

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