The Burning Season: Secrets and Flames

No matter how hard you try, you can’t escape the past.

Directed by Sean Garrity, The Burning Season follows Alena (Sara Canning) and her husband as they return to Luna Lake Resort for a summer of relaxation by the water. Run by her old friend JB (Jonas Chernick), Luna Lake is a place that holds great significance for her and her family. But it also allows JB and Alena to rekindle their passionate (and dangerous) secret affair. Having set rules to maintain boundaries, the two seem to be able to hold things together. But rules are made to be broken.

Backed by a solid script by Chernick and Diana Frances, The Burning Season is a thrilling drama that taps into the ways that clinging to our past can hinder us in the present. Without giving any spoilers, the tragic romance of JB and Alena is compelling from start to finish. Shot primarily in one remote cabin area, the film carries with it a sense of claustrophobia, even if it takes place in the wilderness. By repeated arriving in the same rental space, we know that there’s something about these characters that prevents them from breaking away, even if Season holds its cards close to its vest until the finale.

Much credit must be given to some fiery chemistry between Chernick and Canning. Their smoldering looks toward one another give this Burning Season its heat. (So much so, that one wonders why their spouses struggle to see what’s really going on.) Beginning with the end, their relationship unspools in such a way that we can’t help but become wrapped up within them.

And is that fractured storytelling that makes this Season truly unique. By playing the story in reverse, somehow Garrity, Chernick and Frances manage to make their key moments hit differently. A drunken speech in the opening has greater depth when it’s held up against what came before. JB and Alena’s commitment to one another feels even more tragic as we watch their affair grow. (In fact, one could argue that there’s more heat before they consummate their sexual relationship than afterwards.) Here, the past determines the present so the payoff to discovering feels even more satisfying than if it were told in the traditional way.

This sort of unusual storytelling fits this Season well. This is a tale that highlights the way that our secrets can strangle us from within. Trapped by tragedy, JB and Alena find themselves fused together. In some ways, their attraction is natural. In others, it feels like an emotional catharsis. 

There’s a certain sense of co-dependency between the two of them. Held captive by their secrets, they are unable to truly move forward in their lives (or from their cabin in the woods). They are stuck in the past and they are stuck there together. After all, only they know what truly happened in the burning home that opens the film. 

Only they know the truth. And, somehow, they allow each other the chance to breath.

Twisty and captivating, The Burning Season has more than enough intrigue for a night of mystery mayhem. Beginning with the end, the fire between Chernick and Canning burns brightly and shows what happens when the secrets we keep turn our relationships to ash.

The Burning Sea on is available in theatres on Friday, May 10th, 2024. 

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