No matter what anyone says. We’re always at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Directed by Peter Facinelli and Nick Lyon (who also co-wrote the film), On Fire tells the story of Dave Laughlin (Facinelli), a husband and father who spends his days supporting his son’s track meets and helping his pregnant wife and ailing father (Lance Henrikson). However, his world is upended when a vicious wildfire threatens the area. In an instant, a normal evening together becomes a run for their lives as Laughlin attempts to flee the flames in order to give his family a chance to survive the relentless forces of nature.
Fueled with tension, On Fire is a drama that’s meant to remind us of the perils of the uncontrollable wildfires that torment North America. Clocking in at a mere 90 minutes, this is a film that doesn’t overstay its welcome and burns brightest during its set pieces. While On Fire may not have the hottest of screenplays, it definitely understands how to create tension amidst the flames. Based on true events, the film demonstrates the true peril of these hellholes, highlighting their unpredictable nature. Due to a myriad of factors, these infernos burn with increasing rage, obliterating everything (and everyone) in their path.
Even so, Facinelli and Lyon understand that the true impact of these events increases when we understand the relationships that are at stake. As such, they choose to focus their lens upon one single family, emphasizing the very real traumas faced by ordinary people at the hands of the merciless firestorm.
While admittedly the writing doesn’t always work, the cast gives everything they have to bring their characters to life. While the cast includes veterans such as Henrikson and Glenn Morshower, the strongest work may come from Facinelli himself. Although Fire asks him to work both behind and in front of the camera, he still remains committed to his performance, offering genuine care for his character’s family.
More than anything though, On Fire is meant to emphasize the courage and bravery of those who face these challenges on a regular basis. For some families in the Midwest, forest fires are a constant fear. For them, the threat of tragedy always remains on the horizon.
However, the film also offers a special emphasis on the area’s first responders who consistently fight for the families of the area. Although they put their lives on the line to save others, they too remain somewhat powerless at the feet of the rampaging blaze. This trauma is emphasized through the character of Kayla (Ashlei Foushee), a 911 operator who must take the calls of the people in peril. As the wildfire burns out of control, Kayla begins to recognize the limited options she has to offer those in need. Left feeling helpless, she is forced to listen to their pleas yet is unable to do anything of consequence to save their lives. And therein lies the true horror of On Fire.
Despite all their best efforts, these characters remain at the mercy of the unforgiving flames. And all that’s left is for them to pray for a miracle
On Fire is available in theatres on Friday, September 29th, 2023.