Grief is not something you can resist.
Generally speaking, anything on IMDB.com over a 6.5 is viewer’s choice. If you’re deciding on what to watch, you can generally trust that if it’s met that threshold, you won’t be completely wasting your time. After 6.5 is a realm saturated with taste, cult followings, and perceptions of perceptions. Whether you’re looking for fun, foreign, or thoughtful, you’re basically on your own over 6.5. Burning Man (2012) is an exception. How it got to 6.3 is inexplicable. It was great.
Tom (Matthew Goode) is a fine chef. He is stricken with grief for the passing of his wife Sarah (Bojana Novakovic) and he tends to put that energy into two things: women and cooking. Only the cooking seems to do him any good. His self-destruction has made it difficult in raising his son Oscar (Jack Heanly). When he gets in a car crash, he relives moments of great pain. The good times, the bad times, and the reckless abandon with which he expresses his grief.
Written and directed by Jonathan Teplitzky, the only writing drawback to this movie is the lateral storytelling. Also, if you have a problem with people walking into focus, then you’ll find the direction a bit annoying. Other than that, you’re looking at a slightly-poor man’s A Single Man(2009). It has that kind of depth of emotion and strength of performance. About half-way through the film, they let you know what’s going on. That sounds like an awfully long time to wait before you know what the movie’s about, but it is developed in such a way that you want to understand more and more.
Character studies are hard to describe. The plot is not particularly important and the direction is a vital form of expression rather than something you can take issue with. All one can really question is whether it is an effective evocation of emotion. And this film does that. The emotion is pure and relatively uncomplicated. The movie is about grief, so it plays in the areas of laughter and sadness. Those seem to be relatively easy issues to tackle in a film.
Where these films might fall down, Burning Man thrives. The dialogue is meaningful, but genuine without any contrivance. When so many films bring out motivations and inner feelings with disgusting clarity, Teplitzky never cheats in that way. He doesn’t say, “Gosh, well I’m just so self-destructive since…you know…it happened.” He knows that he has material that is moving enough without ramming it down your throat. Everything stays understated. The cinematography doesn’t stay natural, that’s true. All the hoity energy stays there and it isn’t even that toity. Again, it’s only the non-linear storytelling that one might object to, but even then if these beautiful people acting beautifully can’t hold your interest, then you don’t have any business watching independent movies in the first place.
Bottom line: it looks great, sounds better, and the acting is superb. I enjoyed it too much to do it justice. It is a bit out of purchase range at time of posting ($20.58), but if they have any sense, that will go down. Rental and Netflix are available.
It’s not rated, but it’s quite naughty. Watching it on a train is not recommended. Awkward.
Special DVD Features: Interviews with everyone on a number of topics, which are great to watch because everyone was glad to be there—Jack explaining what the director does is particularly funny to watch; A “behind the scenes” moment which shows the filming of various scenes which was fantastic if you want to get the feel of a film set; and a trailer.