Review of Fireflies in the Garden

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A family is devastated by the death of their matriarch on the day she's due to graduate from college - decades after she left to raise her children. Julia Roberts plays the lead role of Lisa Taylor while Willem Defoe acts as her domineering husband, Charles. Meanwhile Ryan Reynolds plays the grown-up version of their son, Michael.
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Movie Review: "Fireflies in the Garden" --

Rating: R (language and some sexual content)
Length: 99 minutes
Release Date: February 10, 2008
Directed by: Dennis Lee
Genre: Drama
3 out of 5 stars

"Fireflies in the Garden," directed and written by Dennis Lee, is a tale about a multi-generational family struggle. The film is largely derived from some of Lee's personal experiences, notably the death of his mother and some bad family history. Some of Hollywood's most well-known actors and actresses are in action in "Fireflies in the Garden," with the most recognized ones being Ryan Reynolds, Willem Dafoe, Julia Roberts, and Carrie-Anne Moss, as well as the emerging talent who is Hayden Panettiere. "Fireflies in the Garden" is a film that practically anyone can relate with because it contains a great deal of family conflict, something which happens on a regular basis in every family.

The film uses many flashbacks to the past while still referring to the present. The family that is involved in much of the plot is made up of three different generations-parents Charles and Lisa (played by Dafoe and Roberts respectively), Lisa's sister Jane (younger version played by Panettiere, older version played by Emily Watson), Charles and Lisa's children Michael (younger version played by Cayden Boyd, older version played by Reynolds) and Ryne (Shannon Lucio), Jane's son Christopher (Chase Ellison) and daughter Leslie (Brooklyn Proulx), and Kelly Hanson (Moss), Michael's ex-wife.

The opening scene of the film displays the frailties of the relationship between Charles and Michael. A flashback scene shows that Charles was extremely harsh on the young Michael, and this led to their fractious relationship in the present day. As Charles begins to lose his focus, he comes down hard on those closest to him, namely his wife Lisa. Because of the way Lisa and Michael are treated by their husband and father respectively, they form a pact and despise everything that Charles stands for.

With the background of the characters and setting of the scene out of the way, the film contains a moment that sets up the rest of the film and ultimately dictates the future of the family. In a flashback scene, it is revealed that Charles and Lisa were making their way to a family reunion to celebrate the success of Jane who graduated from college. Charles was driving like a maniac and ploughed into a tree when swerving to avoid hitting Christopher. The result was that Lisa was killed and Charles was in a serious but safe condition.

The movie continues to flip back and forth between the present day and the past. In order to console both Christopher and Leslie, Michael takes both of them fishing, which is a throwback to when Jane was just a young girl. However, Michael attempts to help them overcome their grief by exploding fish with firecrackers. Concerned that Charles and Jane will be disgusted with this type of behavior, Michael tries to convince Christopher and Leslie not to admit the truth to their mother about where they have been and what they have been doing. However, the true facts of the trip are discovered, and Charles and Jane are less than pleased.

The stress on the family takes its toll when Christopher makes the decision to run away, feeling as if he is the one responsible for the current state that the family is in. Michael discovers it, though, and assures Christopher that what happened to Lisa has nothing to do with him. Christopher appears to accept this plea but chooses to walk home alone rather than get a ride with Michael. When Christopher does not return after many hours, the search begins to try and locate him. Once Jane finds out that Michael was with him but did not bring him home safely, she puts all the blame on Michael. Christopher is eventually found safe and sound, but some new revelations come to light-Michael is shocked to learn that before his mother Lisa died, she had been having an affair with Addison (played by Ioan Gruffudd), who is a young professor. In addition to this new discovery, Lisa had made plans to leave Charles after attending the family reunion she was not able to attend.

"Fireflies in the Garden" is a story that is both believable and understandable from the average viewer's perspective. The film does not delve into too much critical thinking and instead focuses on relationships between family members and how strained those relationships can become due to special circumstances. Overall, "Fireflies in the Garden" is a great film that almost anyone can follow and enjoy.