Kindling review: old friends make the most of one last summer

The main character in Connor O'Hara's Kindling gathered around an unlit bonfire.
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British writer/director Connor O’Hara makes his directorial debut with Kindling, a deeply personal story about friendship and loss.

A feature debut inspired by true events, Connor O’Hara’s Kindling is a deeply emotional story of childhood friends reuniting in their home town for one last summer all together. Sid (George Somner) is terminally ill, with not much time left. As his friends Wolfie (Kaine Zajaz), Diggs (Wilson Mbumio), Dribble (Conrad Khan), and Plod (Rory J. Saper) – not their real names, of course – return home from uni, they work to turn Sid’s final weeks into a celebration of life and friendship. 

Sid’s a bit of an astronomy nerd, and he devises a way to exist forever. He gets each of his friends to find an item that binds them together, and at the end of the summer they’ll burn them in a huge bonfire, releasing their essence (and essentially Sid’s) into the Earth’s atmosphere, giving him a sense of meaning and a little slice of immortality. 

This is a film that’s really quite special, and that’s down to the fact that it’s full of contrasts. It’s melancholy and yet so uplifting and full of love. With its countryside setting it manages to capture the aimlessness of long summers between university years, time that’s spent trying to kill time, while also conveying the bittersweetness that comes from the friends knowing that their time together is limited.  

While the subject matter is inherently moving, it’s the performances that really make Kindling as powerful as it is. Geoff Bell and Tara Fitzgerald play Sid’s parents, and the two of them are like exposed nerves the whole time. They, just like the friends, struggle with the knowledge of what’s to come, but also with how to treat Sid in the coming weeks. The internal struggle between wanting to protect their son and allowing him to live to the fullest is one that’s keenly felt throughout. 

Somner is excellent as a protagonist coming to terms with death, but the other leads – Mbumio and Khan especially – get some amount of spotlight. For them, it’s also a coming of age tale, as they try to imagine their futures without Sid and attempt to keep their friendship alive while the prospect of adult life threatens to set them drifting apart. 

This is a film that stresses the importance of cherishing our loved ones and never forgetting those who are, or have been, important to us. It feels like a deeply personal movie, and Connor O’Hara’s debut feature is certainly one that’s not easy to forget.

Kindling is released in cinemas and on digital on 21st April.

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