Film review: 'Fire' by Claire Denis | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, September 24th, 2022  


Studio: IFC Films
Director: Claire Denis

Mar 08, 2022 Web Exclusive
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Fire is French director Claire Denis’ first film in her native language in five years. It is a searing, thought-provoking look at the boundaries between love and lust. The film premiered just a few weeks ago at the Berlin International Film Festival, where Denis was awarded the Silver Bear prize for Best Director.

Fire, which is set during the Coronavirus pandemic, centers around Sara (Juliette Binoche) and Jean (Vincent Lindon), a married couple madly in love. The two’s daily routine is somewhat monotonous: Sara travels to the radio station where she works, while Jean looks for a job that is suitable for an ex-convict or takes care of errands. When the two are together, they are inseparable, relying on each other’s company, both emotionally and physically.

Things instantly change, though, when Sara spots her ex-boyfriend and Jean’s old friend, François (Grégoire Colin), on the street in front of her workplace. Overcome with emotion, Sara quickly leaves the area in a daze. When she discovers that Jean and François are teaming up to start a business, she begins to spiral even further, worrying about the powerful feelings that she still harbors for François, and the fear of what will happen if Jean finds out. From there, the film explores the trio’s love triangle, centering on Sara’s emotions and indecisiveness as the basis of the story.

Even so, one thing Denis has always been incredibly skilled at is communicating the feeling of desire—both emotionally and physically—between characters. Fire is no exception. From the opening sequence of the film, which showcases Sara and Jean swimming together in the ocean, viewers are instantly able to comprehend the two’s deeply-cemented connection. By using their desire as the basis for the film’s storytelling, Denis also reinforces that the two are completely reliant on each other, setting up a dynamic that will quickly be tested again and again as their relationship unravels. Additionally, the viewer’s ability to understand the characters’ motivations makes the film incredibly easy to watch, with the characters’ arguments feeling completely real and warranted, showing the downsides that arrive when external desires interfere with love.

Fire is mainly centered around the love triangle, but the film also includes a much more minor storyline that explores the relationship between Jean and his estranged son, Marcus (Issa Perica). Although their relationship and conversations are engrossing–including a fascinating extended monologue delivered by Jean late in the film—the plotline feels completely shoehorned in and doesn’t have enough depth to add any meaningful or memorable themes. The inclusion of this storyline also causes the film to suffer from pacing issues, awkwardly maneuvering between two storylines that are completely different in structure, execution, and meaning.

While much of Fire‘s success can be attributed to Denis’ and collaborator Christine Angot’s screenplay, it also has some fantastic performances. In the principal roles, Binoche and Lindon shine, perfectly embodying their characters in a way that allows the viewer to understand, if not fully sympathize with, their complexities. The pair’s dynamic range as performers also allows them to sell some of the film’s more unbelievable dramatic beats, including a couple of fights that are downright taxing to watch. It’s their chemistry that supports the entire film, perfectly showcasing the strong feeling of desire that gives Fire life. (

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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