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BLACK NIGHTS 2018 Estonian Film Competition

Review: Fire Lily


- This Estonian take on Rosemary’s Baby drifts into silliness, but finds a spirited lead in Ingrid Isotamm

Review: Fire Lily
Ingrid Isotamm in Fire Lily

Maria Avdjushko’s debut feature, Fire Lily [+see also:
film profile
, presented in Tallinn Black Nights’ Estonian Film Competition, starts off as an intimate drama, but not one that is particularly striking, visually speaking. Its protagonist is so heartbreakingly lonely and desperate that she seems almost delusional. But while the director never really provides answers to all of the questions, which in this case actually seems like a wise move, she also comes out to play. And how.

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After a painful divorce, ophthalmologist Pia (Ingrid Isotamm) is, to put it bluntly, losing it. In between unenthusiastic attempts to finally furnish her empty flat and show up to work on time, not to mention have at least one normal exchange with her aloof mother (Epp Eespäev), she suddenly starts to black out. In addition, she begins appearing at her ex-husband’s place and scaring his new partner to death, or claiming that someone is visiting her at night. “I don’t know who this is,” she tells her best friend (Eva Eensaar-Tootsen), who just laughs it off, trying to cover up a mysterious bruise on her neck with concealer. But soon enough, Pia finds out that she’s pregnant, even though the doctors told her long ago that she would never have children. When a potential one-night stand ends with a would-be lover pushed out of bed and right into a taxi by some mysterious force, all bets are off.

Which, although rather silly – it’s the kind of film where, in accordance with the Chekhov’s gun principle, if someone mentions a witch, a witch you will get – is also quite entertaining, thanks to Isotamm’s feisty Pia, putting wimpy Mia Farrow in Roman Polański’s Rosemary’s Baby to shame. It’s just a pity that her spunk is never really matched by anyone else in the cast (not even Arrow’s Johann Urb as a hunk with a heart) and that proceedings are burdened by the occasional clunky exchange, with simple sentences like “What happened?” somehow being followed by “I need to go to India”.

All blond mane and acerbic wit, she might not understand what is happening around her, but she sure won’t take it lying down, going as far as using her ex’s underwear to clean the floor with an intensity that almost echoes Jennifer Lawrence’s fearless rendition of “Live and Let Die” in American Hustle. And yes, that’s a good thing. “I am glad you haven’t lost your sense of humour,” says her therapist after an odd exchange. So is the viewer.

Fire Lily, which was co-written by Maria Avdjushko, Leana Jalukse and Al Wallcat, was produced by Aet Laigu, of Estonian outfit Meteoriit. It was co-produced by Julien Madon, with Adrian PolitowskiBastien SirodotNadia Khamilichi and Krisjan Rahu on board as executive producers. Sales are handled by The Yellow Affair.

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