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‘The Burning Season’ review: Dir. Sean Garrity [Glasgow 2024]

Sean Garrity’s The Burning Season begins in the past. A teenage couple have hushed words. It is clear that something bad has happened and the pair vow to never speak of it. This mystery instantly hooks the viewer in, but The Burning Season has a lot more hiding up its sleeves.

Co-written by Jonas Chernick and Diana Frances, The Burning Season is a love story told in reverse. After the encounter as teens, the story jumps forward a number of years and quickly unmasks an affair between the now adult Alena (Sara Canning) and JB (Jonas Chernick). The news is revealed on the night of JB’s wedding and is exposed as having been going on for years. However, rather than explore the aftermath of this revelation, The Burning Season rewinds itself, transporting the viewer back to the start of their love, summer by summer. 

It’s a complex way to present what would otherwise be a straightforward relationship drama. In changing the direction of the narrative, The Burning Season becomes a more compelling story. The viewer quickly understands the unique hook and gets stuck into the enjoyment of trying to piece together what happened prior to the scene they watched. It is a fascinating way to enjoy a story, and one not witnessed too often. 

Thankfully though, The Burning Season has more going for it than an interesting method of storytelling. The relationship between Alena and JB is rich in material to mine. The pair are both bonded and distanced by their dark past. Like magnets, the two continually attract and repel each other summer after summer. Both have partners whose companies they enjoy, and yet outside of Alena’s yearly vacation to JB’s holiday cabins, they have little contact. Even still, each year the two give into their desires and embark on a passionate affair. 

The chemistry between Canning and Chernick is intense; the duo expertly portray the pent up passion of Alena and JB. For a number of years their encounters are purely driven by their physical urges, with Canning and Chernick fully committing to the scenes. It is clear that Garrity has utilised his intimacy coordinator to great effect. The lovemaking scene in particular emphasises the emotions rather than titillating with bare flesh. It is not just in the physical encounters that the actors sell their characters, their more tender, dialogue led scenes push their emotional sides too, helping raise The Burning Season from being a limp and lifeless erotic thriller. Instead, The Burning Season is a sexually charged story of regret, guilt, and an insurmountable need to connect with that one person who truly understands the darker side of yourself. 

Supporting cast Joe Pingue and Tanisha Thammavongsa, who play Alena and JB’s partners, Tom and Poppy, are also fascinating to watch. Written and acted as ordinary humans, there are no flaws to either character that push the cheating pair to stray. So often films try to make a case for why a lead character should stray. An overly naggy partner, or one focused only on themselves, are common tropes. Here, Tom and Poppy are lovely, caring, and most importantly for Alena and JB, safe. As glimpsed in the prologue, bad things happen when Alena and JB unite. They are a danger to one another and those in their vicinity, and therefore Tom and Poppy are vital to keep them grounded. 

What makes The Burning Season so special is the intimacy that it conjures. The serene lakeside location helps build an enclosed environment that is both comforting and a powder keg. Alena and JB’s past is linked to the ground on which they walk, meaning that everything within the frame also feeds into the connection of these two characters. Once time rewinds far back enough to get to the truth that has kept them bound for a small eternity, The Burning Season fully embraces its dark side. The casting of the younger versions of Alena and JB – Natalie Jane and Christian Meer – is note-perfect. Jane and Meer seamlessly take over the established roles and ensure that The Burning Season goes out on a high. 

A romantic drama told in reverse; unpicking the mystery hidden within ensures that The Burning Season keeps the viewer engaged. What could have been a cheap gimmick perfectly moulds this tale of tragedy and desire into something elegant and compelling. 

The Burning Season

Kat Hughes

The Burning Season


A clever narrative trick of playing the story in reverse reignites the romantic drama in this dark tale of passion and secrets. 


The Burning Season was reviewed at Glasgow Film Festival 2024

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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