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Fireflies in the Garden [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
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From the Studio
To an outsider, the Taylors are the very picture of the successful American family: Charles (Willem Dafoe) is a tenured professor on track to become university president, son Michael (Ryan Reynolds) is a prolific and well-known romance novelist, daughter Ryne (Shannon Lucio) is poised to enter a prestigious law school, and on the day we are introduced to them, matriarch Lisa (Julia Roberts) will graduate from college-decades after leaving to raise her children. But when a serious accident interrupts the celebration, the far more nuanced reality of this Midwestern family's history and relationships come to light.
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Successful Romance novelist Michael Taylor (Ryan Reynolds) has completed his latest novel, a work of serious memoir literature in which he has recounted his childhood in an attempt to free himself from the influence of his demonic father, English professor Charles Taylor (William Dafoe) who seriously abused Michael as a child and for whom he holds little emotion but disdain. Michael has returned home for the college graduation of his sister Ryne (Shannon Lucio) as well as his mother's - Lisa (Julia Roberts) - deferred graduation. But the celebration is altered by an accident: Charles swerved to not hit his nephew Christopher (Chase Ellison), hit a pole resulting in a crash that killed Lisa and injured Charles and leaves Christopher with a dark cloud of guilt that he caused the trauma.
We gradually meet the family: Lisa's sister Jane (Emily Watson) is the mother of Christopher and his little sister and has always been the closest friend of Michael when they were children (as children, Michael is portrayed by Cayden Boyd and Jane by Hayden Panettiere ), At Lisa's funeral Michael's `ex-wife', AA reformed Kelly (Carrie-Anne Moss) shows up to add to Michael's angst. From here the film jumps back and forth between the childhood of Michael and Jane and the suffering and abuse Michael endured at the hands of his grotesquely diabolical father and the secrets of that failed family life are gradually exposed and the traumatic present. In cleaning out Lisa's things Michael discovers some information that alters his view of his past, and those discoveries lead to a change in the way Michael views his father and Jane's children and most significantly the demons that have burdened him through his life.
In addition to the fine work by Reynolds, Watson, Dafoe, Roberts, and all the other cast members, there is an important cameo for Ioan Gruffudd that opens the murk of the story well. Though this journey through the progress of a dysfunctional family has been done many times before and even frequently using the protagonist as a novelist about to open the secrets of the family's lives to the world, this story take some significant alternative routes that make it more tender. The uses of flashbacks could have been better edited so that the audience is aware of when the character changes occur, and there are many unanswered questions about how each of these characters came to inhabit the human roles they present here. But given the fact that the audience must stay completely alert during this film in order to follow this at times meandering story, this is a worthy film. One wonders why the missing 33 minutes were not included in the American release (the film was made in 2007 and it seems as though it never played the theaters, going instead directly to DVD). With a cast of this caliber this should have been a popular film. But where did those missing pages take us? Grady Harp, February 12
Right at the beginning of the film, we meet Michael Taylor (Ryan Reynolds, in a well-acted dramatic role), a successful writer that is on his way to his hometown to celebrate his mother Lisa's (Julia Roberts) graduation from college. Michael is kind of hard to read or understand, and you can feel that for some reason he is unwillingly going back home. Once he arrives to his hometown, tragedy strikes, and what was supposed to be a happy celebration turns into an incredibly sad occasion. Once in the house, facing the harsh reality in his life, he is sadly taken to his past and his relationship with his disturbingly strict father Charles (Willem Dafoe), a successful college professor of literature, who is being groomed to be the president of his prestigious teaching institution. Michael also has to re-examine his bonds with his sister Ryne (Shannon Lucio), and his aunt Jane (Emily Watson).
Well-directed by Dennis Lee, "Fireflies in Garden" is about how the past defines the present, and the struggles that we have to endure to accept it. It goes right to the heart and I'm glad that I watched it. The DVD includes a making-of documentary. (USA, 2007, color, 89 min plus additional materials)
Reviewed on January 30, 2012 exclusively by Eric Gonzalez for Sony Pictures.
Tale focuses upon a romance novelist reflecting on his abusive time as a child in which his father verbally and physically abused him and put him through "torture" when he was displeased with the boy. Now, after the death of his mother, he has to face his father's anger as well as all of the other dysfunctional family members. He's got a novel written that is about his life growing up and basically lays out all the family dirt and he's trying to decide whether to get it published or not.
There's a bittersweet taste to this film. At times you laugh, at times you feel like you just got hit in the gut and other times you feel people are going to work out their differences. It's one of those films that tries to reflect real life so sometimes there are no happy and complete resolutions but for myself I left the picture feeling satisfied with the delivery. It's nice to see a film every now and then that admits things aren't always resolved like a fairy tale. That's called fantasy, people. That said, I felt the main character worked things out just not in a Pollyanna manner.
There's an all star cast here, including several who took supporting roles: Willem Dafoe, Julia Roberts, Carrie-Ann Moss, Emily Watson, Ryan Reynolds, Hayden Panettiere and Ioan Gruffud.
The budget for this picture was $8M (which tells me a lot of big names took pay cuts to work on a project they believe in) but it only made a bit over $3M at the Box Office. We'll see if it does better in DVDs and residuals.
Written and directed by Dennis Lee. Some say his tale is autobiographical. Note that the movie was edited and seems to be missing over 20 minutes so their may be a director's cut at a later point.
CINEMATOGRAPHY: B plus to A minus; STORY/PLOTTING/EDITING: B plus; CHARACTERS/DIALOGUE: A minus; THEMES/FAMILY FOCUSES: B plus to A minus; WHEN WATCHED: mid September 2012; OVERALL GRADE: B plus to A minus.
The movie is no masterpiece but if you wanna watch a emotional family drama, I really suggest you watch this one.