(director/writer: Del Kathyrn Barton; screenwriters: Huna Amweero, story by Del Kathryn Barton; cinematographer: Jeremy Rouse; editor: Dany Cooper; music: Sam Petty, Angel Olsen; cast: Simon Baker (Luke), Yael Stone (Hannah), Josh Lawson (killer), Sofia Hampson (Anna), Julia Savage (Blaze), Bernie Van Tiel (Blossom, counselor); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Samantha Jennings; Gravitas Ventures; 2022-Australia)

“A spellbinding emotional film.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The debut feature film of the legendary Archibald Prize-winning artist, the Australian Del Kathyrn Barton, is a spellbinding emotional film. It’s co-written with the director by Huna Amweero, from a story by the director.

Blaze (Julia Savage) is a 12-year-old girl who resorts to using her imagination to survive her trauma after witnessing a rape and murder. A vicious scene where Hannah (Yael Stone) is attacked by the monster (Josh Lawson).

In this highly drawn symbolic coming-of-age drama, Blaze for strength draws strength from her visions of an imaginary fire-shooting dragon consisting of feathery parts, large bulging eyes and a unicorn-like horn.

The contrast between reality and fantasy is highlighted throughout the film.

Blaze is consoled by her loving father (Simon Baker), but as the only witness to the crime she’s in over her head. To help her feel better, she’s forced to be treated in a psychological facility (where she feels like a prisoner).

The film tells its survival story using visual flourishes and stop-motion animation and shows how Blaze,  the only witness to the violent crime, is so deeply affected.

The arthouse crime film is anchored by the brilliantly sensitive performance by Julia Savage and the subtle direction of Barton. The director is searching to grasp the more mythic aspects to the horrific real-world crime.

The grim film has the power to leave the viewer visibly shaken while also uplifted by its heroine’s youthful flights of fancy.

REVIEWED ON 1/21/2023  GRADE: B +