In the Fire

In the Fire
In the Fire
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Science or religion? Simple. Or, perhaps “Would this movie exist if Amber Heard didn’t sign on?” is a better question for a film like In the Fire?. The premise kept reminding me of Florence Pugh’s Netflix film The Wonder — no, not Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder with Ben Affleck. In her movie Pugh plays a doctor who travels to a remote village to look into a child with suspiciously extraordinary abilities and with In the Fire, Heckard portrays a similar character as she ventures into South America looking to see whether the boy has really been endowed by the devil himself. She was nominated for an Oscar; Heard wasn’t.

But that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t been in headlines lately particularly following her court trial against ex Johnny Depp and the mostly useless Netflix project that followed. Heard has done better movies- Zombieland, The Danish Girl, The Rum Diary-and looks out of place here. It certainly contains some breathtaking visuals and couple of decent supporting turns but In the Fire feels kind of flat and tired, like something we’ve seen on screen before in our lives.

Conor Allyn’s new supernatural drama co-written by him introduces itself through what appears to be an attempt at baptism gone wrong probably due to a young boy called Martin (Lorenzo McGovern Zaini) who it seems may have some sort demonic power about him or his actions. He lives in some South American community which is subsequently stormed by Dr. Grace Burnham (Heard), an alienist sent there to ascertain such dubious rumors about what could be behind this mysterious boy’s eyes. Just one among many clumsy lines that fall from Heard while performing as an unwaveringly determined doctor: “If there is indeed any sick boy, then I will come across him.”

After meeting Martin, however, we realize that he is more than meets the eye: charismatic, speaks English fluently as a second language, and oh yeah, he plays the violin quite well too. But then Martin’s conflicted dad, Nicolas (Eduardo Noriega), starts to reveal more about why exactly Martin is ostracized, recounting his wife’s second childbirth gone wrong, a horseback riding accident, and other grim details.

“Science it is and we will solve this together,” Grace confirms amid growing suspicions across town that differ greatly with the townspeople’s thoughts and beliefs. It does not help that Martin looks like young Damien in The Omen films (both the original one and remake) but she still remains positive throughout her therapy sessions with him. Together they visit the grave of Martin’s mother; she shows him Rorschach images etc.

There are other parental figures in Martin’s life: Father Antonio (Luca Calvani) who almost loses his life looking after Martin. The hotheaded villagers aren’t exactly peaceful with their beliefs. In this village there are sick animals, where “demonic” sounds such as those produced by Martin would be blamed first. Moreover, young children starving in town even get food from martin while Grace fancies this – but later on, those boys end up dead. His fault? Hmm…

Grace calls on Yari Gugliucci, a village chief who is also known as Father Gavira, to lean the villagers towards science but this too fails. This scene has been described as the core of the film and it shows Grace undergoing public flogging after accusations of being an “enchantress.” In an interview with MovieWeb director Allyn says that Heard became interested in the movie because he read about such characters who were threatened by other individuals and outcasted within their societies for holding fast to these beliefs, which are similar to some concerns of Heard in recent times.

However, even at this extreme juncture of punishment, she stands her ground. She refers to it as “savant syndome” which was his official diagnosis. She thinks that Martin was born with ability to tap into portions of the brain which others are unaware exist; Nicolas does not believe her though. They want someone to blame,” Grace tells him. The two fall for each other during Grace’s stay in love leading to a quick affair right in-between Martin’s therapies According to meantime is there any possibility that Nicolas could get into all these things so much? Eh!

Moreover, another high point occurs when Nicolas’ house is burnt down apart from his public beating. At this point Martin is crying repeatedly howling “You are mine!” while everyone else wonders if he could be responsible for setting his own house on fire. Of course Grace denies everything confiding that all she wants is Martin’s happiness yet everybody else around her has turned violent.

The session ends with Martin suddenly turning around and asking Grace one very challenging question: “What is your lie?” Her voice trembles as she answers since she feels like she isn’t really helping him after all. But Nicholas begs to differ and thanks her at least he tries although he may be subjective due falling in romantic love with her.

Then suddenly everyone gets infected by plague and guess who becomes the most obvious target? The locals gang up on Martin and Grace protects him. “Get behind me, Martin!” she screams in this tense moment—is this a biblical allusion when Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan”? It is if you like. Moreover, other than that; there are a few other things that stood out about the film such as its general cinematography which helped set the desaturated palette used to match the somberness of tone and aforementioned visuals which were a welcome relief from all seriousness. We also learned from Allyn that Lorenzo had to put on special contact lenses to give him those scary eyes during our interview with him. He has a bright future in Hollywood as an upcoming young star. Otherwise, In the Fire just feels weirdly clumsy and unoriginal.

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