Director: Jennifer Cooney
Writer: Jennifer Cooney
Time: 145 minutes
Review by Mike Szymanski
This unconventional film is intriguing from the beginning. It starts off with classical-sounding music playing and no one is talking for nearly the first eight minutes as we watch a buxomy woman in a negligee seducing s a cute blonde woman who is in bed with her computer.
Welcome to “Wild Fire.” Appropriately touted as a “queer Big Chill” there’s no other way to describe this group of friends who come together to start revealing some pretty tremendous things about each other and to each other. After sitting together for a night by the bonfire, these acquaintances will never be the same again.
The sex is hot, and it’s mostly lesbian sex that is raw, tender and appropriately rough when called for. The relationships seem real and the actors fit their uncanny and diverse roles like gloves.
The seven are not all close friends. Some are close, and some have just met.
They’ve come together for a birthday party to a huge mansion owned by their recently-widowed older friend Elliana, who is played by Celeste Marcone. It’s a remarkable portrayal as she wears her emotions on her sleeve in some scenes and is carefully keeping them in check while dealing with the recent death of her husband David. Marcone plays the role of Elliana appropriately as a caring mother hen who is more concerned about the satisfaction of her guests, while she is carrying a dramatic secret of her own.
Is someone cheating? Is someone secretly gay? Is someone not honest about their feelings? Yes, and more.
Sitting around a fire outside after a lavish party, it gets fairly wild when they all come together for a crossroads of truths that each one of them have avoided for a long time, too long.
They play “Truth or Dare” where they are challenged with telling the truth or daring them to do something on the spot. The truth tends to get a bit too raw for each other, especially since one of the “perfect couples” is not as close as they may first appear. They unravel right in front of the others.
Noah and Maeve are the alleged perfect couple. They are played adeptly by Todd Licea and Annie Gill, and each of the actors take their characters through a wide range of emotions. Both have secrets, both have concerns.
Tom and Ronnie are a boy-girl unmarried couple who don’t know everyone else very well, but find themselves being very friendly to them all. Sam Ball is a big tall bearded actor who plays Tom, and when he is asked if he has ever thought about a gay relationship before in the Truth or Dare game, the usually cool dude becomes flustered and embarrassed especially since the other women call his denial of an answer out as “bullshit.”
Ball brings a rather humorous bent to the role of Tom, with a wink and a smirk even when he tries to be mad, telling Ronnie at one point earlier in the film, “I just caught you masturbating like a teenager.”
His girlfriend Ronnie is played by a sensual Siena D’Addario. One of the non-spoiler confessions that her character makes to her boyfriend Tom is: “I like girls, and I like boys too.” She is coming out as poly-amorous to him and he has no idea what it means.
And, it seems like many if not all of the characters are potentially bisexual and poly-amorous, if they would let their guards down.
Jillian Guerts is Del, the young blonde lesbian, who seems smart and wise-cracking, but also has her own issues and flaws. Del is in a relationship, but everything seems rather fluid with her. She is the character that comes across as the most appealing, and the one you’d most rather be friends with, I think.
The director and writer Jennifer Cooney is involved in every aspect of this film and she must be responsible for the languid long shots on each of the actors as their characters linger in their own thoughts and in their own worlds. We watch voyeuristically as the camera closes in on them, almost to the point of being uncomfortable watching.
The original music in a classical style written by Brianna Tam is as much a character in this film as any of the seven actors. With intense music at times, mostly with piano and strings, the music works with the flood of tears and laughter throughout this heartfelt film.
Although it seems like they simply do a lot of talking, they have a lot of intense talking and that provides enough action. The next day when these characters wake up they will have to figure out what to do with their new-found truths and what happened the night before.
The tagline for the film, is, after all: “The truth will set you free…but can you handle it?”
First-time director and writer Cooney does an amazing job in every part of this project. She says about her film: “I believe that ‘we each have a song to sing.’ We are all born with a spark, an unadulterated song that is True and unique to each of us — that we are all an individuated facet of All-That-Is. And we came here to burn away all that we are not.”
She adds, “To experience it all — light & dark — to gain an experiential understanding of Who We Truly Are. A spark of the Divine. And it drives our every moment.”
As far as the sexuality of the film, the director says, “We are taught to be ashamed of our sexual selves, taught that our heart’s desires are foolish, driven to live the lives our ancestors lived, burdened with their darkness and fears. And somehow we believe that’s going to fulfill us…”
Ultimately, the film explores how the characters become free of lies and imitations.
“We’ve all heard, ‘Follow your bliss,’ and things of the like, and to me, that’s what it means… follow your heart’s desire and it will lead you through the fire, and what will emerge is a divine expression of your most authentic self,” Cooney explains.
“I believe our sexual self is no exception — rather, I believe it is where our true creative prowess lies dormant until we Awaken. And this desire…this thirst for true expression…this fire…God only knows where it comes from. All I know for sure, is that it’s wild.”
“Wild Fire” is a delightful, incisive movie, but you may not want to watch it with a group of your friend, unless you want things to get, uh, a little weird, and very real.
The film premiered at Red Dirt Film Fest in April 2023. Distribution is not yet secured