Incendiary (UK, 2008)

incendiary-movie-poster-2008-1020483672Directed by: Sharon Maguire. This was really not a good movie. This is what we amateur film critics call an un-good movie. I knew literally nothing about it, but I was drawn to two good actors on the cover—Michelle Williams and Ewan McGregor—and a story about terrorism set in London, and anything in London usually reels me in regardless of other warning signs. The “markers” of the film drew me in. Alas, my random DVD-picking-in-the-bargain-bin-at-Superstore-to-complete-a-4-for-20-deal led me astray. Within minutes, I was almost physically ill from the overwhelmingly saccharine gushiness of the emotions. This protagonist seems like a very broken, fragile personality who desperately needs help—and this is even before her son dies (SPOILER ALERT: her son dies like 20 minutes in). The supporting characters, played by the undoubtedly talented but inconsistent Ewan McGregor and unknown (to me) Matthew MacFadyen, just aren’t there, they’re cardboard cutouts. And ultimately, these male leads are just detours, red herrings to pad out the running time when really, the juicy arc belongs solely to Michelle Williams with her not terrible (but still pretty regrettable) British accent and her shattered mental state after this horrible trauma. Now, this is where we get into muddy territory because, by every measuring stick I have available to me, this is a really poor film and a waste of time for anyone to watch, BUT, it’s also interesting as fuck if you look at it juuuuust the right way. As a conventional narrative arc, it’s a complete mess. The director Sharon Maguire has this poor woman in an infant-like state of adoration for her boy, listless and detached from her husband, wandering into adultery, suffering a horrible trauma, getting out of the trauma, wandering into another quasi romance (kind of?), stalking some other kid, and finally completely breaking down and hallucinating her boy’s return, suffering a complete breakdown that only seems to ebb when she gives birth again and then writes a sentimental, poorly written letter to Osama Bin Laden (and narrates it for us). This could be some kind of meta-filmmaking, a comment on sentimentality in cinema filtered through a tremendously damaged character that the film itself just strains to make sympathetic. We certainly empathize with her in all her misfortune and anguish, but we can’t identify with her, any more than we can identify with the fucked up protagonists of One Hour Photo or Taxi Driver, because, like them, she’s just too crazy. So who knows? This could either be complete shit, or a really fucking interesting piece of alt/post/meta/fuck cinema. The world is a wide and wonderful place.


4 responses to “Incendiary (UK, 2008)

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