By: Andrea Josic
At surface level, Firecrackers seems to explore everything that young adults in quiet, rural Ontario towns dream about: a way out. Far from a simple, coming-of-age story about two best friends, Firecrackers is a film that explores the challenges young women face while navigating a patriarchal world.
Director Jasmin Mozaffari, a graduate from Ryerson University’s film studies program, takes a look at society’s expectations of women and how these standards are overcome. Developed from the short film of the same name Mozaffari made as a student, her feature film debut Firecrackers overwhelms the audience with authentic characters, intricate plotlines and well-executed cinematography.
The movie opens with the protagonist Lou, TIFF’s Rising Star Michaela Kurimsky, fighting another girl in a parking lot. Immediately introduced as crude, dominant and fiery, Lou embodies all the traits of a woman living outside of traditional definitions of femininity. As the movie progresses and her character faces challenges that test her independence and womanhood, Kurimsky’s acting never falters.
Chantal (Karena Evans) represents society’s current expectations of women. Outside of acting, Evans is a trailblazing filmmaker who has helped produce videos for Drake and Grammy-nominated R&B singer SZA. As Firecrackers reaches its climax, Chantal breaks out of her shell and embodies the same powerful qualities Evans possesses in her own personality.
After she’s assaulted by her ex-boyfriend, Chantal’s desperation to leave town escalates. Brimming with character development, she delivers satisfying growth and decision-making as she embarks on this chaotic journey with her best friend.
Although the pair share the dream of leaving their stuffy, one-dimensional town, Chantal and Lou’s characters serve to juxtapose one another. As different as their behaviours are, their acting feels natural as they attempt to break out of society’s standards together
There are several plotlines woven into the film at once, adding just enough detail to keep the complexities of the film subtle yet impactful. Mozaffari continues to explore the definitions of gender and conformity through Lou’s younger brother Jesse (Callum Thompson), who likes to dress in Lou’s clothing and wear makeup. The lack of support Jesse receives from their mother Leanne (Tamara LeClair) is Mozaffari’s way of providing social commentary on toxic masculinity and the oppression of femininity.
Mozaffari took an interesting approach to the cinematography, but it proves to be worth the bold move. Comprised mainly of shaky, hand-held shots, a filmmaking risk that could have otherwise appeared careless and flawed, only contributed to the movie’s electric, raw atmosphere. The loud, eerie music, with amplified sound effects, added yet another layer of the same dark edge that comes with every other aspect of this movie.
In her feature film debut, Mozaffari delivers an intense female-driven narrative with two leads who are unapologetically rough around the edges. Lou and Chantal’s journeys to pursue their dreams in a male-dominated world is executed with skill and edge. In an age where women are deconstructing systemic sexism and demanding their freedom of expression, Firecrackers has debuted at the perfect time.