Drama featured

A Tale of Two Sisters: A TIFF Review of ‘Wildfire’

September 18, 2020Britany Murphy

When Kelly (Nika McGuigan), who's been missing from her quiet border town for a year, shows up on the doorstep of her sister Lauren (Nora-Jane Noone) one day, it makes for quite the shock. Now Lauren must come to terms with how her sister's reappearance has sparked memories of a major traumatic event in both their lives.

Directed by first-time feature filmmaker Cathy Brady and set in Northern Ireland, Wildfire sheds light on familial troubles — in particular, the bond between siblings and how a trauma from the past can have a genuine impact on the events in the present. With that in mind, McGuigan and Noone do a great job bringing that to bear in their respective roles. Through their understated yet powerful portrayals of their characters, the pair truly capture the bond between siblings, especially the mixed emotions that can arise in situations such as this. At the same time, however, the film also diverges from its focus on these two sisters, pointing a lens at the small-minded and nosey type of small town people that can truly make one's life feel more claustrophobic.

Showcasing the devastating effects of both grief and mental illness, the result is a stirring drama about dealing with anguish and overcoming personal battles. Sadly, Wildfire also marks McGuigan's final role as the actress passed away from cancer in 2019, a tragedy made all the more poignant by her memorable performance.

Wildfire screens under the Discovery programme at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 25 min.

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