BFI Flare: Firebird (2021) Review

Certificate: 15

Director: Peeter Rebane

Screenwriter: Tom Prior, Peeter Rebane

Starring: Tom Prior, Nicholas Woodeson, Diana Pozharskaya

Genre: Drama, Romance

Runtime: 107 Minutes

Language: English

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewed by: Pearl

Firebird is a touching love story set in the Soviet Air Force during the Cold War. Sergey, a troubled young private, is counting the days till his military service ends. His life is turned upside down when a daring fighter pilot, Roman arrives at the base. Driven by curiosity, Sergey and Roman navigate the precarious line between love and friendship as a dangerous love triangle forms between them and Luisa, the secretary to the base Commander. Sergey is forced to face his past as Roman’s career is endangered and Luisa struggles to keep her family together. As the walls close in, they risk their freedom and their lives in the face of an escalating KGB investigation and the fear of the all-seeing Soviet regime. Based on a true story – Written by The Factory

This love story, set against the backdrop of the cold war, is both beautiful and heart-breaking.  When together on screen the chemistry between the two main actors makes the relationship shine.  It’s a love story you really want to get behind and you want to see them both happy.  We know from the synopsis that it is unlikely to end well, and those with prior knowledge of the Soviet feelings towards homosexuality will also know that this story is probably not going to end happily ever after, but for the few brief scenes where we get to see these two young men live happily together, in love, it is a beautiful thing to watch.

But the film does suffer a little for some pacing issues.  Other then one or two very minor scenes featuring a senior officer, there is very little in way of threat going on, so the decisions made my Roman seem a little unfounded.  And without this feeling of threat, there is little to keep the pace moving forward.  Instead, it is a lot of statically shot scenes, of the pair coming together and inevitable drifting apart again.  The real money shots, and real powerful, emotional performances, come towards the films tragic end.  Where everyone really seemed to step up their game to give the films ending the emotion and impact that it deserves.

The acting is pretty solid throughout, though the accents did tend to come and go at times.  Especially if the lines called for a lot of emotion.  It certainly isn’t an uplifting watch, with the peak of the cold war looming and the doomed love story at the forefront, there is an overall feeling of tragedy and melancholy over the whole thing. There are nothing noteworthy to say about the camera work or direction, but you don’t always have to rely on flashy tricks to make a good film and tell a good story, so I don’t necessarily think this to be a bad thing, but a few shots other than the static camera work we had most of the tine, would have added a little variety, though your average audience member is unlikely to notice that.

Overall the love story is just about enough to keep this film moving forward, even if it is towards an inevitably tragic end.

Firebird premieres at BFI Flare Film Festival Today.

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