Posted: April 21, 2023 in Cinema

Writer and director: George O’Hara


“When something is burned, its particles are released into the atmosphere to last on forever”. These words resonate strongly with Sid, a novice astronomer who is soon to leave this universe and seeks ways of leaving some tiny mark of his existence.

Kindling tells Sid’s story during a brief Summer period when he is reunited with boyhood friends. He is about to celebrate the third anniversary of being told by doctors that he has up to three years to live. Written and directed by George O’Hara, the film sets out to be a celebration more than a wake, telling us to value family and friendships while we still have them.

The film also pays homage to a perhaps dying vision of rural England; green rolling hills, rustling woodlands, rippling streams and water lilies sleeping peacefully on a small pond. Captured beautifully by David Wright’s cinematography, it all seems much too idyllic, but O’Hara is reminding us that we only borrow the places that we treasure; we cannot own them forever. Likewise our friends.

As Sid, George Somner gives the film is beating heart, embodying the spirit of resilience that pushes the character forward. For him, life goes on until it doesn’t and bonds of friendship are unbreakable. The return of his four friends who have left to build lives elsewhere, sparks the idea of having a huge bonfire onto which each will throw items of personal significance. The friends, Digs (Wilson Mbomio), Dribble (Conrad Khan), Plod (Rory J Saper) and Wolfie (Kaine Zaijaz), each given distinct characteristics by O’Hara, are acted superbly and perhaps their stories deserve to be developed further.

Equally touching is Sid’s platonic friendship with Lily (played with great charm by Mia McKenna-Bruce), a young lady who is unaware of his condition and not part of the group of five. She has low self-esteem, unable to find a direction or purpose in her life. Sid’s efforts to encourage and strengthen her, perhaps hoping that a part of him will live on, illustrate the writer/director’s themes of loss and renewal.

The drama is bolstered by stirring performances from Tara Fitzgerald as Sid’s over-protective mother and Geoff Bell as a father who just wants to be a bigger part of his son’s short life. They are struggling to function as normal while grieving inside for Sid, who is still among them. Harry Brokensha’s soft rock music enriches the film’s youthful spirit and its mood of melancholy.

Kindling is at its most powerful when it is understated, but it walks a fine line between solid drama and mawkish sentimentality. When, particularly in the final third, it crosses that line, it feels forgivable because of the film’s overriding tone of positivity. Nonetheless, best advice is to watch it with a box of strong tissues to hand.

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