Fireflies in the Garden (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/05/2009

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 99 mins

This dysfunctional family drama remains watchable thanks to likeable performances from Reynolds and Watson, but it lacks dramatic impact and fails to deliver the required emotional punch.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Dennis Lee, Fireflies in the Garden is a semi-autobiographical family drama starring Ryan Reynolds as novelist Michael Taylor, who reluctantly returns home for a family celebration. However, when he arrives at the family home he finds the scene of a car accident that has just killed his mother, Lisa (Julia Roberts), and devastated his emotionally domineering father, Charlie (Willem Dafoe).

As Michael struggles to reconnect with his grieving father, he rediscovers his friendship with his kindly aunt Jane (Emily Watson), while flashbacks show the pair as children (played by Cayden Boyd and Hayden Panettiere) growing up under Charlie's ultra-strict rules. Meanwhile, Michael uncovers some shocking secrets about Lisa and things are further complicated by the unexpected arrival of Michael's recently estranged wife, Kelly (Carrie-Ann Moss).

The Good
Reynolds is an effortlessly likeable actor and he's on good form here; he also has strong chemistry with both Watson and Moss, which works well. Similarly, Dafoe can do gruff, emotionally distant types in his sleep and there's strong support from a delightful Watson, while Panettiere does her best to inject some life into the otherwise disappointing flashback sequences.

The Bad
The film's main problem is that the most interesting onscreen relationship (between Michael and Jane) is the least developed, which is doubly frustrating since the flashbacks indicate that it's important (there's the tiniest hint that they fancy each other). That said, the current cut of the film is rumoured to be 20 minutes shorter than the original version, so maybe Lee ditched the wrong 20 minutes.

Ultimately, for whatever reason, the film's supposedly emotional revelations lack dramatic impact and it's hard to care whether Michael reconciles with either Charlie or Kelly.

Worth seeing?
The performances ensure that Fireflies in the Garden remains watchable but it fails to deliver the desired emotional punch and it's hard to shake the feeling that the good stuff was cut out.

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Content updated: 24/09/2018 16:46

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