The Movie Waffler First Look Review - WE BURN LIKE THIS | The Movie Waffler

First Look Review - WE BURN LIKE THIS

we burn like this review
A descendant of Holocaust survivors reconnects with her faith amid rising anti-semitism in her town.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Alana Waksman

Starring: Madeleine Coghlan, Devery Jacobs, Angelo Rizzo, Kendra Mylnechuk, Casidee Riley, Megan Folsom

we burn like this poster

State of this world, though. I can’t be certain of it, but it seems these days that we’re getting even more racist and actively hateful towards one another. Search #jews or #mulsims (spelling the word incorrectly will reveal further clumsily vile responses) on Twitter, etc, to prove my point. Don’t even bother with the dedicated right wing freeze peach sites. You already know what will be there. Perhaps we’ve always been a mob of odious pricks all along, yet recently, certain platforms, which allow subterfuge and a degree of anonymity, have not only offered a forum for such sentiments but a space where such ideologies can thrive via the toxic connections which social media engenders. Antisemitic attacks in the US numbered over a thousand in the last year, and those are just the ones which have been recorded. There’s no accounting for the snide remarks or the low-level ignorance which is the lingua franca of the everyday racist and their everyday racism. Viewed within this context, Alana Waksman’s We Burn Like This would seem a timely directive. Focusing on the life of a young Jewish woman, Rae (Madeleine Coghlan), whom the film’s publicity blurbs as "a descendant of Holocaust survivors." We follow Rae as she navigates the usual vicissitudes of growing up, along with the routine antisemitism which she faces.

we burn like this review

We Burn Like This sets its stall early. Over Hebrew chanting a forlorn female voice intones about identity and who she is, before an Instagrammy montage of young women out and about doing young people things colourfully contrasts the angst (hang on, let’s give it a chance, etc). Rae carries about in the same way that I imagine most of us did when we were in our twenties: falling out with friends, dating or not, getting off her face. We Burn Like This, however, treats this rather quotidian continuation as the stuff of high drama. For instance, Rae fancies her roommate’s fella. When said pal and handsome beau go on a date, this spirals Rae into a fit of stubborn melancholy, and, to the sort of lachrymose needle drop not heard since Dido squatted upon the charts like the Jonah at a hen night, she goes out to a bar and sits there drinking alone. Come on, mate. Pull yourself together. At the bar a bloke offers to buy her a drink and proceeds to get arsey when she refutes him: the film attempts an essay in toxic masculinity here, but with an archetypal winsome lovelorn girl and her entitled frat boy counterpart, both with their matching senses of entitlement, the stereotyping is too limited to convince.

we burn like this review

This is before we get to the drugs. En route from the bar, Rae stumbles upon a house party, where the host cheerfully shares his stash with this perfect stranger. A charmed life, you may think. But no. We Burn Like This frames Rae having a dreamy bop gently off her tits on opioids as A Very Bad Thing. Jesus, it is 2022! One would hope that a Serious Film would approach the matter of controlled substances with a more even handed, complex approach. Instead, we just see Rae wake up on her couch with a little pile of sick next to her, which, let’s face it, has probably happened to thousands of people her age this morning (alright, she does end up in A&E later, but this is signalled as an inevitability by the narrative from the off). To add an unintentionally funny patina to her hungover scenes, as she wakes up Coghlan has been made up to resemble Siouxsie Sioux coming off stage at the 100 Club - all kohl eyes and shocked hair!

we burn like this review

What is also worthy of more serious consideration is the racism which Rae experiences. She volunteers to scrub clean graffiti swastikas (which, again, is it me or are these on the rise, too? Some thickos sprayed one on the lamppost outside our East-European descended house when I was a kid - in my naivety I’d hoped those days were gone), which is an indication of a wider malaise. But, eeesh, most of the other occurrences of antisemitism Rae encounters are incidental, and seem almost forced into the narrative - a bloke casually states that a pair of eyes look "kind of Jewishy," while a character asks what a Hamsa is ("a whatsa?"), and there are cheesy AF door to door Christians (again, in a film which broaches social injustice, the stereotyping helps no one). While it is incontestable that this sort of ignorance abides within the real world, in We Burn Like This they seem a bit clumsy and forced, insult to the injury of Rae’s overblown social life. In fact, seeing as the narrative drive hinges on a long-ago domestic accident which left Rae’s chest scarred, you could take out the antisemitism and have almost the same movie. We Burn Like This purports to be serious, but the jejune framing of Rae’s experiences, and the self-pitying tone of the film, undermines its impact.

We Burn Like This is on US VOD now. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

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