Blaze (2022) is the directorial debut of Del Kathryn Barton – who is regarded as one of Australia’s leading artists – and she displays her sense of powerful imagery throughout this film. Within minutes of starting the movie, the audience will be greeted with tons of compelling shot compositions, colors, and styles that will continue throughout the film. There are many allegories built into the storytelling, with some being on the nose and others being a little more unclear. Regardless of your take on the story, two things should stand out: Barton has a very powerful command of the form, and the casting of her young lead was extraordinary.
Blaze (Julia Savage) is walking down a back street eating ice cream and listening to music when she witnesses a domestic dispute. Looking to avoid being involved, Blaze hides and witnesses a horrific attack. Blaze struggles to deal with her feelings and the world that seems to allow this kind of thing to happen over and over again while also becoming a young woman.
It is in the coming of age story and the emotional state of Blaze where Barton is truly able to deploy her knack for visual metaphor. There is a surrealist element built into the story about a dragon (and I have several theories on what it represents), but none of them feel definitive. Regardless of my uncertainty, it’s a stunning visual motif that only amplifies its meaning as the story goes on. Another moment that I found visually arresting was when Blaze was sitting in her room that has bright moonlight shining through the window, with the rest bathed in blue. The moments that follow only take on more stunning imagery, as she seeks comfort from the source of the light.
While there are several good performances in this film, Savage is insanely good, and apparently game to a Bruce Campbell-working-with-Sam Raimi level. The amount of gunk – glitter to blood to who knows what that liquid was – that the young actress has thrown onto her in some way or another is kind of insane. There is so much vulnerability on display, and Savage – much like her character Blaze – seems to really learn who she is over the course of the film. It is an incredible, star-making performance.
Blaze is not an easy movie by any means. There were several moments when I was very uncomfortable or worried about what would happen next. I am still processing many of the things that were on display throughout the film. However, I know it is powerful, as there is a scene towards the end that brought me to sudden tears. Blaze gives its audience a lot to digest in a way that is clearly well thought out and designed. Movies like this don’t get made nearly often enough, and while it isn’t perfect, it clearly left its mark, earning the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.