The Blazing World
the blazing world | carlson young | pierce brown | udo kier | dermot mulroney | vinessa shaw | based on | novel | adventure | comedy | fantasy | romance | sci-fi | thriller | united states | multi-verse | allegory | fairy tale | john karna | soko | liz mikel | sophia bernard
Film: The Blazing World
Director: Carlson Young
Writer: Pierce Brown and Carlson Young
Starring: Carlson Young, Udo Kier and Dermot Mulroney
This is a movie that I believe I first heard about as it premiered at Sundance. I wanted to see this one in the theater, as the Gateway Film Center was selected as one of the satellite locations, but I couldn’t make the time work. I am now seeing this as I thought it paired as an interesting double feature for Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast as my 2021 release. This also made Rotten Tomatoes for the higher reviewed horror films of the year, which helped to check it out. The synopsis is decades after the accidental drowning of her twin sister, a self-destructive young woman returns to her family home, finding herself drawn to an alternative dimension where her sister may still be alive.
We start this movie off getting a surreal image of what looks like someone cutting their wrist. There is an interesting musical score synced to this with the opening credits. The movie then gives us the event that changed the Winter family’s lives forever. We have Margaret (Josie Fink) and Elizabeth (Lillie Fink) playing outside by a big tree. They’re collecting fireflies. In the house, their parents are arguing. Alice (Vinessa Shaw) is trying to prepare dinner and cuts her finger. Tom (Dermot Mulroney) is drinking. It appears he’s a struggling author. While they’re going at it, Margaret sees her father hit her mother and Elizabeth falls into the swimming pool. It is Margaret’s scream that draws their attention. While they try to help, Margaret sees a strange man, Lained (Udo Kier), by a strange glowing circle. I took this as a portal.
The movie then jumps to the present. Margaret (Carlson Young) lives in the city. We learn that she deals with depression, much like her parents. There is a scene with her getting in the bathtub and Lained holding her under the water. Margaret gets out and hears a voicemail from her mother. Her parents are moving and they want her to come back to go through her things. Whatever she wants, she has to take or it is going to be thrown away.
We gt to see first-hand that this family never recovered from this incident. Alice is lonely and talks to herself. She just wants someone to talk to. She doesn’t want to forget Elizabeth. Tom on the other hand, drinks to forget. Margaret is coasting through life without purpose. Margaret believes in alternative dimensions and there’s a Dr. Cruz (Liz Mikel) that she watches.
That night she goes out with a guy she used to see, Blake (John Karna) along with some of her former friends. We get flashes where Margaret isn’t sure what is happening. I bring this up as it appears she has sex with Blake in his jeep or she might be alone. Regardless, she comes home, but the door is locked. She sees Lained and he takes her to the portal that she saw as a little girl. He entices her by telling her that Elizabeth is still alive on the other side with him.
Margaret goes on a journey in this other world to find her sister. She has to gather keys to unlock the door where is kept. She has to be careful though. There are things that lurk in the shadows that are hungry. If she isn’t fast enough, she will be trapped here as well.
I think that fleshes out the concept of this movie a bit more. Where I want to start is that, this movie is hard to recap. It is a surreal journey. The best way that I can describe it is that we are getting elements of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and Pan’s Labyrinth. I didn’t realize this is also loosely based on a work of the same name from 1666 as well. This is a dark fairy tale that is an allegory for the grief this family is dealing with. It is interesting; Margaret has to go through these different things and gets to delve into how her parents are dealing with the death of Elizabeth. She must come to terms if she is going to survive this journey.
Where I want to dive into first is the character of Margaret. Her twin died when she was a kid. She saw this creepy guy Lained appear next to her parents as they try to revive her sister. This strange man also has a portal next to him. She’s carried this with her since that fateful day. I think this movie is interesting because it is an allegory for depression. Margaret is just coasting through life as I said. Her father tells her to not give up on things she loves. There is this dance class she told him about. When he presses her about it, she doesn’t have an answer for not doing it. She believes in alternative dimensions as well. She thinks there could be another version of our world where her sister is alive. This is her clinging to hope. She wants those around her to confirm it. When she takes this journey into this another world with Lained, she gets to see how her parents are dealing with grief and how to deal with that. It is interesting that Young is the director and co-writer of this movie as well. Her performance is great in this role. It is even more impressive with all the behind-the-scenes things she did as well.
With that character explored, I want to then look at her parents. I’ve lain out that Tom drinks to forget where Alice just wants to talk about Elizabeth to keep her memory alive. It is interesting that Margaret has to meet both of them in this other world. She meets Alice living in a house in the desert. The house is filling with sand. I take this as the passage of time and slowly being forgotten. Margaret has limited time in this world, but Alice requires her to sit and talk to her in order to get the key. She also has a heavy price in exchange for it. Margaret with Tom is different. He makes a statement about a nightmare he had where he calls himself the harbinger of violence. Margaret needs to get his key from a safe, but she needs to figure out the combination while also being fearful of him hurting her. I like getting to see how both of these people have grown apart over the tragedy and how they’ve dealt with it. They haven’t done anything healthy to cope and it shows.
That should be enough for the story. Where I want to shift this over to then will be the acting, which also carries this movie. I’ve already said that I thought Young had a great performance. I’d say the same thing for Mulroney and Shaw. They don’t have the same amount of screen time, but they don’t need it. Both of them establish their characters and get their moments to shine. Kier is also good here. He’s such a creepy character. What I like is we don’t know if he can be trusted or not, as he comes off as a villain in the start. Margaret has to though, when she is in this other world. The rest of the cast is fine around them to push them where they need to.
This will bring me to the cinematography, soundtrack and the effects. For the former, this is shot beautifully. It does such a good job with making this surreal world. Even in the normal world, we have these characters just surviving and not living. We don’t necessarily know what is real. Margaret’s way of understanding it is thinking there are other worlds, including one that could be better. I loved this part. The soundtrack is also great. We get an interesting combination of synth, classical and atmospheric music. There are multiple times in my notes that I commented on it and it is well done. I was impressed. As for the effects, a lot of it is CGI. I am forgiving here due to the fact we are in a surreal world. Not everything is real so it works. It doesn’t look great though all the time if I’m honest. I’d say I’m still positive about this.
So then in conclusion here, I think this is an interesting movie to me. This is definitely an arthouse film. We have an interesting allegory here about grief and depression that plays out like a fairy tale. I think the acting is great from our four leads with the rest of the cast there to push them where they need to. The cinematography is beautiful as well and the soundtrack is great in setting the mood for the movie. If there is a drawback here, there are some things that I don’t fully understand about the movie. Another viewing will be needed there. The effects aren’t always great either. I do think this movie is better than the score it has on the Internet Movie Database. It won’t be for everything, but I found it interesting for sure.
My Rating: 8 out of 10