Has there ever been a movie more Ontario than Jasmin Mozaffari’s debut, Firecrackers? And I’m not talking about this urban enclave of Toronto or anything; I mean rural fucking Ontario, eh? Specifically the eastern beach town of Cobourg, where two teenage girls fearing dead-end futures desperately plot to get away and break free.
Out of school and facing zero prospects, Lou and Chantal pass the time drinking, fighting and generally fucking around their sleepy surroundings. More than anything though, they want to skip town with the help of their friend Josh and his wheels and speed away to the glitz and glamour of New York City, a plan that takes on new urgency when Chantal breaks up with her aggressive boyfriend and Lou’s broken home life becomes increasingly untenable. They quickly discover, however, that while talking about your dreams is easy, making them a reality is a whole other draining situation.
While both girls are firecrackers, Lou is the one primed for maximum explosiveness. With her long shock-red hair, she seethes with a rage that erupts into violence and a willingness to take on anyone, anywhere, anytime. In the role, newcomer Michaela Kurimsky (who bears a striking resemblance to Michelle Williams) rips through the screen from the very first frame, as Lou beats another girl senseless in a schoolyard fight, but she also gradually reveals the warmth and maturity of a young woman who has just been burdened with too much. “Why are you so angry all the time?” asks one dimwitted dude to her. She shrugs it off but take one look at her environment and the answer is obvious.
Anyone who grew up in rural suburbia in this province will immediately recognize the lazy nothingness of summers where the parties are outside in the grass and the days bleed into the nights bleed into the days. Mozaffari captures this all through a lens as restless as the characters, punctuated with moments of lush reverie. For a first-time feature filmmaker, she’s remarkably assured of her voice, allowing her characters to fully come alive in authentic and unpredictable ways.
You can see the influence of Andrea Arnold’s lost-youth portraits on Firecrackers, but it also harkens back to an earlier legacy of Canadian cinema, one where a couple of hosers left behind the doldrums of rural Nova Scotia for the big city of Toronto in Goin’ Down the Road. Mozaffari flips the script, however, because for Lou and Chantal, who are really just expected to stay put in the middle of nowhere forever, the destination doesn’t even really matter. The escape plan alone is the whole battle.