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’Old Flame’ review: Dir. Christopher Denham [Brooklyn Horror Film Festival]

Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy has captured the imagination and adoration of an entire generation of adults. His films are barely anything more than two characters having a series of conversations, and yet audiences love it. The movies have a bittersweet quality to them and often appear on lists of greatest romance movies. Imagine though, if there was something darker within these discussions. How would that flip things around? This is exactly the angle that writer and director Christopher Denham has taken with his new film, Old Flame.

Old Flame

The film is an intimate two-hander starring Andy Gershenzon and Rebecca Robles as two former lovers who cross paths again at their college reunion. Immediately Old Flame asserts itself as being something other. It opens to a black screen upon which the viewer can hear the sound of a struggle. It’s loud and violent, screaming and shouting overtaking the blank monitor. Then, out of nowhere, smashes the opening title, quickly followed by a text card pronouncing the beginning of Act One. Old Flame is split into three acts, each distinct in tone and content, the brief separations allowing the audience a few seconds to breathe between each part. 

The two characters at the centre of Old Flame are Calvin (Gershenzon) and Rachel (Robles). Of the pair, it is Calvin that is introduced first. Denham quickly conveys the contrasting behaviour of Calvin, The first impression is that of a mild-mannered business type. He is away at a hotel, but keen to be a committed father, he is seen on Skype with his two darling daughters. Moments later after the call ends, Calvin is seen watching pornography. It’s not the most wicked of sins, but does point to a less wholesome side to the man. 

Calvin is next seen setting up a conference room. He’s the man in charge of organising his college reunion. Whilst hard at work he is interrupted by a woman, Rachel. At first he tries to shoo her away, but upon hearing her name, he lets her stay. It’s clear the two know each other and as the two begin to converse, the viewer is sucked straight into their world. This first act is played cordial and polite. Overly polite. There is an ease to their conversation, the couple seemingly picking up their friendship right from where they left off. As they quickly fill each other in on the superficial aspects of their lives – jobs, family etc., everything is going fine. There’s a frisson of flirtation between them and after a proposition of a pre-reunion drink, it makes the audience think they know where this is headed. 

Act Two joins the pair on their drink ‘date’. Once again they’re chatting away, this time reminiscing about their time at college. The two discuss their time dating and just when the audience seems certain what is going to happen, the tone switches. Suddenly Old Flame is uncomfortably tense. The jovial chit-chat becomes something deeper and darker as allegations are brought onto the table. This revelation casts everything that has come to pass prior in a different light. The intentions and motivations of both Calvin and Rachel are thrown into question. A malice enters both the atmosphere and the performances and now the audience is fully invested in where this film is going to end up. The final act shifts location once more, the couple entering a space where the full brutality of Old Flame can be unleashed. 

Old Flame deals with some very triggering topics and as such this is a film that will polarise viewers. Denham plays with expectations and introduces a strong element of distrust between the audience and each character. The writer and director plays the viewer directly in the middle of a ‘he said, she said’ scenario. Post screening discussions are going to be fascinating as everyone brings their experiences to their interpretations. Old Flame works so well thanks to the committed and complex performances of Gershenzon and Robles. The two are in constant harmony and watching their on-screen sparring is completely mesmerising. Sure to be one of the most talked about movies wherever it plays, Old Flame is a sublimely acted confronting story that needs to be experienced. 

Old Flame

Kat Hughes

Old Flame


Proof positive that all you need to make a film is a compelling narrative and a committed cast, Old Flame is tense and uncomfortable, but at the same time utterly absorbing. 


Old Flame was reviewed at Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


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