Burn Burn Burn
The Laugh category at the London Film Festival is a selection of movies representing humour in all its shades. While most are standard, lighthearted comedies, a few, like Burn Burn Burn, have a tragic element that makes the audience sway back and forth between laughter and melancholy. It is clear from the beginning that director Chanya Button’s film is no ordinary comedy. One of the main characters, the young Dan (Jack Farthing), has suffered a premature death. His wish to have his ashes scattered in the places that he was emotionally attached to pushes him to record a series of videoclips instructing two of his best friends, Seph (Laura Carmichael) and Alex (Chloe Pirrie), of the whereabouts of his chosen locations and he explains why these spots were important to him. What may seem like a straightforward request turns out to be a journey of self-discovery for Alex and Seph, and a cathartic experience for Dan himself, who manages to bond with the girls from beyond the grave and achieve a sense of closure.
The journey requires the friends to travel all over the UK so the road trip inevitably becomes intense and revelatory. Dan provides one recording for each leg of the journey, and the aim is not merely to orient his friends geographically, but to direct them emotionally by encouraging them to be honest with themselves and each other when he is no longer there. Dan’s ashes are stored in a tupperware container kept in the glove compartment, and as his remains shrink progressively in size after each stop, his presence is increasingly felt in the tension that grows between Seph and Alex as Dan inundates them with confessions and blunt criticism.
A road trip, a friendship threatened by secrets and the tragic departure of a young man are all safe ingredients for heart-warming cinematic appeal, and the mix does indeed provide the right dose of humour balanced with the emotional weight of graver subjects. The film can easily draw in the audience with its familiar elements but for the same reason it fails to surprise or leave a lasting impression. Carmichael and Pirrie have a believable chemistry that allows them to successfully bring to life their characters’ genuine yet awkward friendship. Their performances are the main force that holds the audience’s interest as the film continually oscillates between the revelations of uncomfortable truths and a string of tragicomical situations.
Chanya Button’s debut feature may be easy-flowing and comfortable cinematically but its themes are complex. It focuses on the very subject of discomfort, and more specifically the difficulty of dealing with honesty and with the truth in its stark form. Amusing and sobering at the same time, Burn Burn Burn is a nice addition to the varied range of films presented at the festival.
Burn Burn Burn does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch the trailer for Burn Burn Burn here:
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