'Firecrackers': Film Review

Courtesy of Good Deed Entertainment
A modest but sympathetic drama of troubled youth.
7/12/2019

Jasmin Mozaffari's feature debut follows two girls as they try to escape their small Ontario hometown.

Escaping small-town poverty is easier planned than achieved in Jasmin Mozaffari's Firecrackers, a sort of coming-of-age film whose Ontario setting could easily be mistaken for big swaths of rural America. Certainly, Mozaffari's two teenage heroines would face many of the same obstacles south of the border: incompetent parents; too-available intoxicants; boys and young men who fall on a spectrum from feckless to vile. Though it's built atop the girls' determination to get themselves to New York City (their dubious assumption that things will be better there goes unquestioned, understandably), the pic avoids painting their ambition as something more than it is. Neither over-bleak nor falsely heroic, the movie sensitively observes a short span that, however things work out, is going to be a turning point in their lives.

Entering the film in high spirits, best friends Lou (Michaela Kurimsky) and Chantal (Karena Evans) seem ready to burn any bridges that might bring them back to their hometown once they leave. Their pal Josh (Scott Cleland) has a new truck, and has agreed to drive them away tomorrow, funded by a wad of cash the girls earned cleaning motel rooms for a year. Chantal also lives in that motel, and the pic's view of id-controlled mayhem in the underclass will remind some of The Florida Project, in which awful behavior was celebrated as proof of an unquashable human spirit.

The girls are partying with Josh and another boy outside town when Chantal's possessive ex-boyfriend rolls up; her willingness to even speak to him alone is one of several ways in which Mozaffari underscores the isolation of Lou, who finds herself stranded at several moments in the film, staring quietly at places she hopes never to see again. Lou goes off with a boy of her own, only to see her fun spoiled by his sexual insecurity.

Chantal suffers something worse than an aborted makeout session. The movie downplays the trauma of what was likely a rape, possibly involving multiple boys; but Lou's volatile response to the incident gives the film its dramatic shape. The girls wind up losing their money and their chauffeur, are demonized by others and must figure out how to get their road trip back on track.

Here, too, the pic steers clear of full-on misery, getting ankle-deep in the ugly setting without becoming an exploitation film. Lou's mother is dating a screw-up who looks closer to Lou's age; her kid brother Jesse (Callum Thompson), who likes experimenting with makeup and vogueing, is on track to face his own familial ostracization.

Though the girls earned their get-outta-town money legitimately, the film quietly suggests that their only remaining options for escape will involve exploiting somebody's sexual desires, either in a friendly way — Chantal finds an older traveler willing to give the pair a ride — or a more mercenary one. While it doesn't judge either girl, it also doesn't pretend their options are happy ones. (No young woman shoplifting cough syrup and lipstick can be headed toward good decisions.) In the end, it seems enough that they make it onto the road together, pointed toward uncertainty — and anybody left behind is going to have to learn how to survive for himself.

Production company: Prowler Film
Distributor: Good Deed Entertainment
Cast: Michaela Kurimsky, Karena Evans, Scott Cleland, Dylan Mask, Callum Thompson, David Kingston, Tamara LeClair
Director-screenwriter: Jasmin Mozaffari
Producers: Caitlin Grabham, Kristy Neville
Executive producers: Paul Barkin, Daniel Blanc, Matt Code
Director of photography: Catherine Lutes
Production designer: Thea Hollatz
Costume designer: Mara Zigler
Editor: Simone Smith
Composer: Casey Manierka-Quaile

92 minutes