Burn Burn Burn
dir Chanya Button
scr Charlie Covell
prd Chanya Button, Daniel-Konrad Cooper, Tim Phillips
with Laura Carmichael, Chloe Pirrie, Jack Farthing, Joe Dempsie, Alison Steadman, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Alice Lowe, Jane Asher, Nigel Planer, Sally Phillips, Eleanor Matsuura, Matthew Kelly
release US Jun.16 siff, UK 28.Oct.16
15/UK 1h46
Burn Burn Burn
Hit the road: Pirie and Carmichael

steadman rhind-tutt lowe
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Burn Burn Burn With an intelligent, sensitive script and a gifted cast, this British comedy takes the audience on a journey that's darkly hilarious and profoundly moving. It's an extraordinary combination of brittle humour and resonant emotion, perfectly written and directed to avoid even a hint of sentimentality. And as the story zig-zags its way across Great Britain, it continually surprises the audience with its astute observations.

When their best pal Dan (Farthing) dies of cancer, Seph and Alex (Carmichael and Pirrie) receive a video message instructing them to sprinkle his ashes at four key places. This requires an epic road trip, which they're reluctant to embark on. Then Alex catches her girlfriend (Matsuura), while Seph clashes with her boss (Phillips) and her cloying nice-guy boyfriend (Dempsie). Needing an escape, they hit the road, heading to Glastonbury, then Cardiff, York and Ben Lomond in Scotland. Along the way, Dan's videos set each scene, bringing out dark truths they'd rather keep hidden.

This is a pointed exploration of how we protect secrets to avoid hurting our loved ones. Dan has the biggest one: he never told anyone he was dying. And now he is challenging both Seph and Alex to open up to each other in uncomfortable ways. But as painful as honesty can be, it's also cathartic. Meanwhile, their road trip is propelled by colourful scene-stealers including a deadpan tour guide (Lowe), a free-spirited new-age guru (Rhind-Tutt), an amateur actor (Kelly) and a geriatric hitchhiker (Steadman).

Carmichael and Pirrie make a superb duo, effortlessly conveying years of friendship that will clearly survive even the bleakest emotions. It's fascinating to see their distinct personalities blend and clash, especially regarding things that have gone unsaid between them. Both actresses bring these secrets to the surface with jagged individualism in scenes that are staged with absurd genius (Alex's big confession comes while she's standing in for an actor playing Jesus on the cross).

These women are both annoying and loveable, guided by director Button and writer Covell through an odyssey that surprisingly never feels forced, even in its wildest moments. The deeper emotions are continually undercut with sharp wit, while the stream of side characters distract us from the power of the central narrative. It's a fiercely clever little film that worms its way under the skin without us even realising it, then clobbers us with a series of bracing insights that leave us thinking about our lives in unexpected ways.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 29.Sep.16

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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall