Chanya Button’s directorial debut Burn Burn Burn is a dramatic comedy/road trip across the UK, covering death, friendship, and love. It’s a sweet film that could have been better executed; like a birthday card made from macaroni, it’s not perfect but it’s great for what it is.
Burn Burn Burn stars Laura Carmichael as Seph and Chloe Pirrie as Alex, two best friends who must scatter the ashes of their friend Dan (played by Jack Farthing) as they try to work through his death and their own personal problems. The film starts with Dan’s funeral, but his final wishes and thoughts are kept in a video diary for his friends to watch. The videos serve as instructions for the girls, but they also chart Dan’s continually failing health as his cancer takes effect.
His ashes are unceremoniously put into a more convenient lunch box for the girls to carry around, and the glove compartment of the car is turned into a cushioned pad for him ‘to rest’. Dan is the driving force of the film, pushing the plot along and pleading with his friends to sort themselves out and continue the trip from beyond the grave. It’s a device that occasionally seems too convenient for the story but Dan generally seems to know his friends better than they do.
Carmichael (of Downton Abbey fame) is charming as Seph, a young actress stuck in a nanny job and a stagnating relationship; she jumps on the chance to fulfil Dan’s last wish and escape her problems. On the other side is Alex; fresh from breaking up with her partner she prefers to numb herself to her problems by ignoring them completely. The girls are generally hilarious, getting themselves into odd situations and meeting even odder characters, but there are some jokes that fall flat, particularly when the film decides to be more serious. In one painful scene Alex is strapped to a cross for a play rehearsal, but thanks to poor execution, what is supposed to be a major emotional moment just doesn’t work.
The two friends traipse across the UK, leaving behind London to give the more cinematically obscure settings of York, Wales, and the Scottish Highlands a spotlight on the silver screen. It’s also refreshing to find a film with two female leads and a female director, and the film soars past the Bechdel Test. Burn Burn Burn is surprisingly effective as a comedy considering the dour plot, upheld by strong performances from its main leads and supporting cast, only falling apart when it focuses on the drama.
Words by Sunny Ramgolam