Fireflies in the Garden

It's hard to get attached to any of the characters in this drama of strained family relationships.

Written and directed by Dennis Lee, Fireflies in the Garden is an ensemble drama that focuses on the strained relationships between a distant family forced together after a tragic accident. Fireflies follows Michael Waechter (a role shared by Cayden Boyd, who plays the teenager Michael, and Ryan Reynolds) as he returns to his aunt's home to celebrate his sister Ryne's (Shannon Lucio) graduation and instead finds himself mourning the untimely death of his mother, Lisa (Julia Roberts). Using both present-day action and a series of flashbacks, the plot focuses on Michael's tumultuous relationship with his father, Charles. Played with a cool menace by Willem Dafoe, Charles is a loathsome creature seemingly driven by a compulsion to mentally abuse his only son. Barely held together as a family by Lisa, the threesome are joined by Lisa's much younger sister, Jane (Hayden Panettiere as the young Jane, and Emily Watson as the adult Jane), over one particular summer, the memory of which Michael constantly harks back to throughout the film. Reynolds is perfectly adequate as the older incarnation of Michael, but both Lee's direction and his script offer little for the cast to work with. Not much is revealed of the characters, other than the burden each bears, in turn making it hard to form an attachment to any of them. Couple this with the directionless plot, and Fireflies is an altogether tepid affair.

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