Parents' Guide to

Fireflies in the Garden

By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Uneven drama about unhappy family, including tragedy.

Movie R 2011 89 minutes
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FIREFLIES IN THE GARDEN boasts a stellar cast and an unsatisfying script. Writer-director Dennis Lee has created a family that feels truly terrible -- so awful, in fact, that it makes viewers wonder why the mother would bear to stay with such a brute. Michael seems both sensible yet disturbed that he hates his father so much, but given what we see of his upbringing, it's impossible to imagine any other outcome.

Dafoe does an excellent job of terrorizing his son (and the audience) as a slightly deranged father. In fact, except for a few scenes in which he's entertaining his great-niece, the character has almost no screen time in which he's not portrayed as a violent. cruel brute. No wonder Michael has written a novel that's a barely disguised memoir about his dysfunctional family. And that's what makes the movie's ending so baffling and sunsatisfying. After completely convincing the audience that Charles has no redeeming features and can't be forgiven, Michael makes a decision that seems dramatic on the screen yet makes no sense at all.

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