REVIEW: The Ones You Didn’t Burn (2022)

dir. Elise Finnerty

Following the death of their father, siblings Mirra (Jenna Rose Sander) and Nathan (Nathan Wallace) return to their family farm with a plan to sell the land. But as a tide of memories are unleashed with each box of their dad’s personal effects darker forces swirl around them, enigmatic farm workers Alice (director Elise Finnerty) and Scarlett (Estelle Girard Parks) refusing to accept the children’s new found authority.

A slow-burning, dreamy folk horror, Finnerty’s directorial debut is visually sumptuous, with lingering shots of lush fields, wild waves and flames flickering against inky black skies. It’s a stunning backdrop to the themes of self-discovery versus self-destruction: Mirra embraces the promise of nature and its riches, returning physically and spiritually to the land of her childhood. In comparison, Nathan sets off down a darker path, returning to toxic friendships and habits. His journey is a stark reminder that, however far you run, when you return to your childhood home the years fall away and you can find yourself the same person you’ve always been.

The notion of ownership too – of ancient grudges and the power of witchcraft – are lovingly explored by Finnerty, making The Ones You Didn’t Burn a sun scorched exploration of ancestral rage and revenge, one that is teased out gently via ominous warnings, nightmarish visions and sensual siren songs designed to entice and discombobulate in equal measure. 

© Megan Kenny


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