Movie Review: 'Fire Lily' captures small-town life on film

Friday, November 20, 2009

It can be hard to care about someone you don't know. Such is the challenge for the filmmakers of "Fire Lily," the Victory Films production directed by and based on the original play by Kenneth L. Stilson.

With no chase scenes or explicit magic, the movie must capture viewers with the story of a group of "friends" in a small town, wondering why they're still there.

April, played by Marianne Miller, married Nick, played by Drew Kopas, just out of high school and right after her parents die. She meets Daniel (Colin Wasmund), a newcomer to the town who helps April with her flower garden and inadvertently helps her realize how suffocating her life is. The characters are people found in every small town: the failing jock still trying to be the center of attention (Nick), the girl he landed before she had a chance to get away (April), the dufus who stayed because all his friends did (Mike Culbertson as Eddie), the hot girl who has to feel wanted (Rachel Chapman as Emily), the guy who actually got a good job (Sam, played by Blake Russell). The list goes on and on.

The movie asks the question "What's going to happen to these people?" and then succeeds in forcing the viewer to care.

The cuts and editing are clean, but at times you have to wonder about some of the lighting, like when April is reading in the dark, drinking coffee or when she goes outside in just a men's T-shirt and underwear. Those oddities aside, the movie works.

The characters are real and their problems come from life and human nature.

The film uses long establishing shots of a still swamp or a deep gully or clean stream to show the pace of life in this small town and to bring the story back to nature. The downside to these are that they slow the pace of the movie. The upside is they give the viewer time to process the story.

The filmmakers took a simple story and made it a 90-minute movie, and at times, you can tell. Occasionally the film takes too long to get from one event to another, lulling the viewer into a trance with the scenery and then dropping them into an argument like the slamming of a door waking a child.

Watch "Fire Lily" in a free screening at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Shuck Recital Hall.

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