The Blazing World

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

The Blazing World
dir Carlson Young
prd Brinton Bryan
scr Pierce Brown, Carlson Young
with Carlson Young, Udo Kier, Dermot Mulroney, Vinessa Shaw, John Karna, Soko, Sophia Bernard, Breckyn Hager, Liz Mikel, Josie Fink, Lillie Fink, Robert H Lambert, Ace Anderson
release US Jan.21 sff,
UK Jul.21 slf
21/US 1h41

kier mulroney shaw
sundance london

Is it streaming?

shaw and young
Deliberately heightened and utterly bonkers, this fantastical arthouse horror tackles a very serious theme in a lurid, symbolic style. Actor-filmmaker Carson Young is taking the audience on a wildly arch odyssey into the nature of grief, so there are resonant emotions boiling over at every step. It's a slight problem that everything is so relentlessly full-on. But the outrageous flourishes effectively generate some darkly powerful emotions.
As her family's mansion is sold, Margaret (Young) returns home to see her tightly wound father Tom (Mulroney) and needy mother Alice (Shaw). All three are still failing to cope with the death of Margaret's twin, back when they were little girls. And ever since then, Margaret has had a feeling that some sort of guardian (Kier) is beckoning her into a parallel dimension. So she takes this opportunity to dive in. When she confronts him, he sends her on a quest to collect four keys that will unlock her sister's soul.
Cleverly, there are grounded, very real feelings underneath the film's nutty metaphorical surfaces. Each set is flamboyantly designed with a decayed aesthetic, accompanied by florid blasts of music that keep us on the edge. Echoes of childhood memories swirl everywhere, along with much darker adult thoughts and some jarring confrontations between family members. All of this converges within this psychedelic trip Margaret takes into her psyche, confronting her parents and herself along with this creepy guardian. But of course what she's really grappling with are her own memories.

Young's performance has just enough earthy honesty to make her engaging, even if she dresses like a character from a grade school production of The Tempest. Margaret wears her emotions right on her face, which further eliminates nuance but still generates raw sympathy. Because her yearning is compelling enough to make us care. Kier, Mulroney and Shaw have terrific presence in their larger-than-life roles, and actors in smaller roles also add some offbeat texture in a random nightclub sequence.

The main point here is that the fear and anger that accompany grief need to be fully confronted before there can be any healing. And Margaret's trip down this proverbial rabbit hole pushes her to dig very deeply indeed. With a bit more subtlety about both the theme and the symbolism, this film might have had a stronger visceral impact. As is, it's a stylistic oddity that also serves as a bold calling card for a talented filmmaker with something to say.

cert 18 themes, language, violence 26.Jul.21 slf

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall