‘Wildfire’ depicts the story of two sisters – Lauren (Nora-Jane Noone) and Kelly (Nika McGuigan). The pair grew up on the Northern Irish border, and now Kelly has returned home after disappearing for a year. Initially, there’s coolness between the siblings, fuelled by Lauren’s partner, Sean (Martin McCann). While the sisters start to get along again, there’s a forceful tension at the heart of their relationship, as they explore and try to understand why their mother died.
Director Cathy Brady is probably best-known for directing season one of ‘Can’t Cope Won’t Cope’, which she also worked with Nika McGuigan on, a young talent who we tragically lost far too soon. McGuigan has us enraptured from her very first appearance on screen. We are immediately intrigued by this arduous journey she has to take to get home. Clearly this is a place she wanted to get away from – but who is she, where was she, what happened to make her leave, and why did she leave her sister?
Noone, whose character breaks down upon hearing the news of her sister’s return, matches McGuigan’s acting with talent that is just as rich and layered. Her compassionate nature, with an underlying sadness, is very distinct from Kelly’s fiery, furious attitude, getting into a violent exchange on the streets early on. But as they spend more time together, the two start to blend, almost forming one person, or at least one unit, a furious passionate dance scene in a bar providing one crystallising moment of this while their costumes also signal this development.
The colour palette of ‘Wildfire’ is striking and cinematographer Crystel Fournier (‘Girlhood’) deserves a lot of credit here. The dominant mood of this movie is undoubtedly intense, and the sisters’ tumultuous relationship and grief finds a counter in their home of Northern Ireland post-Brexit. There can be a discomforting inexplicable darkness to the film, and not a lot happens as Brady opts to hone in almost solely on the ambiance and the performances. Still, when you have two actresses as phenomenal as Nika McGuigan and Nora-Jane Noone, who share incredible on-screen chemistry, that’s hardly a complaint.