Fireflies in the Garden
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
To an outsider, the Taylors are the very picture of the successful American family: Charles (Willem Dafoe) is a tenured professor on track to become university president, son Michael (Ryan Reynolds) is a prolific and well-known romance novelist, daughter Ryne (Shannon Lucio) is poised to enter a prestigious law school, and on the day we are introduced to them, matriarch Lisa (Julia Roberts) will graduate from college-decades after leaving to raise her children. But when a serious accident interrupts the celebration, the far more nuanced reality of this Midwestern family's history and relationships come to light.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Most people like a good drama to watch every now and again. I think in the case of fictional dramas, writers sometimes draw inspiration from something in their life to make it as relatable as possible. With FIREFLIES IN THE GARDEN, the film does this big job of creating a very accurate portrayal of how a dysfunctional family works (or rather, doesn’t work). The movie switches from past to present from the perspective of Ryan Reynolds’ character, Michael, who returns home to visit his family only to arrive as a devastating tragedy strikes his family… a tragedy that pulls at the fabric that keeps the family whole.
About half way through the movie, I came to the realization that I didn’t like any of the characters. Usually I find that I’m able to connect with at least one, but I just felt nothing for any of them. Initially I thought it was due to poor acting, but as the film went on, I saw that it wasn’t that the actors were doing a poor job with the film, nor was it a case of bad characters being written, it was in fact the exact opposite.
This film, as mentioned, takes a really honest look at family life. The characters, as I came to see, were so unlikeable because they were so raw and so real. Each character had their own set of flaws that made them unique and gave them a really interesting presence on screen. If you've ever had a friend that you really didn't like when you first met but then later went on to become close... that's kind of how the characters felt to me. I don’t think that the performances themselves were necessarily the respective cast members’ best roles ever, but they all did an excellent job with what they were given.
Like most making of features, A Flash of Life: The Making of Fireflies in the Garden goes over the movie from the perspective of the cast and crew. It’s nothing too spectacular, but unlike a lot of other “Making Of” features, this one tries not to put in too many clips from the movie itself… something that drives me nuts normally since I’ve usually just finished watching the movie. The feature is just under 20 minutes and gives fans of the movie a pretty in-depth analysis of the film for the amount of time it runs.
The movie isn’t a truly great film but it sure was incredibly powerful and had moments where I could really feel the pain that each character was experiencing. The film initially came out back in 2008 and many people have been waiting for it to arrive on DVD. Considering how long the delay has been in the film coming to home video, I would’ve honestly expected more special features, but that aside, the film itself (while rather depressing at times) is definitely worth watching at least once.