Jack is an awkward, volatile teen who struggles not just to control his temper, but his unusual powers: his hands leak out fire when he struggles to control his rage and anger.
But then he randomly encounters a ranger in a forest, and tags along to watch him work. Faced with an unfamiliar environment and asked to contribute to an unusual task, Jack finds a way to be strong without anger — and the key to working with his powers.
Writer-director Chris Andrews’s short drama has the look and feel of a naturalistic story, full of girtty social realism and a strong sense of observation. It’s photographed with the muted color palette typical of many naturalistic films, and the direction and editing has a careful attention to small details of performance and visuals, whether it’s the shift in a facial expression, a pause in conversation or the reveal of a tree within a forest.
But the “superhero” elements add an element of engagement and unexpected depth to this coming-of-age story. Obviously metaphorical, it’s still handled with subtlety, thanks to the understated performances and excellent craftsmanship of the filmmaking itself.
There are no “big” moments or swelling orchestral scores to underline huge emotion or revelation. Instead, the film carefully lays out its emotional arc on the tiny but meticulous shifts in performance and visuals, reflecting the shift in Jack’s confidence and competence. When Jack once again has to face confrontation, he has learned how to harness himself — and discovers that his self-awareness actually makes him even more powerful than ever.
“Fire” can technically be filed under the “fantasy” category. But while the special effects are minimal and quietly done, the supernatural elements of the story still accomplish what all great fantasy does: it takes those magical powers and realms to comment on the deepest, most mysterious inner aspects of human existence, and brings an element of the archetypal to a work of great psychological insight.
Anger and rage at the injustices inflicted upon us are never easy to grapple with, and like Jack, we are all too often tempted to use those impulses towards violence. But those dark emotions have a role, as well as valuable information about our internal landscapes — and by learning to deal with those feelings with a sense of self-mastery and insight, we can harness that righteousness towards productive ends, instead of against others or ourselves.