Adapting her 2013 short film of the same name, Jasmin Mozaffari’s feature length debut is an electrifying examination of poverty, toxic masculinity and isolation through the eyes of two young women desperate to escape it all. Lou (Michaela Kurimsky) and her best friend Chantal (Karena Evans, who directed Drake’s God Plan and Nice for What videos earlier this year) have had enough of their run-down small town and have set their sights on start a new life in New York City. However, their plans are interrupted when Chantal’s controlling ex violates her the night before their planned departure.

Seeking revenge, and not thinking of the ramifications their actions will cause, Lou and Chantal embark on a downward spiral that becomes as suffocating as the town they are trying to escape.

A spiritual cousin to films like The Florida Project and Fish Tank, but firmly speaking through its own distinct voice, Firecrackers captures the stifling nature of poverty in an impressive way. Throughout the film we see how the men in the community, all of whom are threatened in some way by women who assert their own agency, try to reclaim their dominance by routinely sabotaging Lou and Chantal. Ultimately these actions propel the young women into making further bad choices. Even Lou’s mother (Tamara LeClair), a former addict who works nights mopping floors, cannot seem to shake the patriarchal notions of what constitutes masculinity.

The film also has a subtle, but important, commentary on race and privilege flowing throughout. Chantal’s “other” status within the community, and Lou’s inability to fully see it, only adds to the tension and desperation Chantal exhibits.

Anchored by Mozaffari’s assured direction, visually capturing the sense of isolation and pending dread in riveting ways, Lou and Chantal’s complexities pour through every frame of the film. Thanks to Kurimsky and Evans blistering performances, one cannot help but understand their quest for freedom despite routinely veering down the wrong path. An intense and powerful work from beginning to end, Firecrackers is a must-see.

Saturday, September 8, 6:45 PM, Scotiabank
Monday, September 10, 4:30 PM, Scotiabank