This week’s film sadly wraps up our November theme with a film that made me think of my blog wife immediately. A British road trip comedy about two women scattering their best friend’s ashes? I know Christa would make that trip 10,000x more fun than the one in this week’s pick.
Burn Burn Burn
Two women embark on a road trip to scatter their friend’s ashes in this loose adaptation of On the Road.
Before we delve into this film any further, let’s get this out of the way: one of the leads in this film is Edith from Downton Abbey (Laura Carmichael), which is thoroughly inescapable. However, her character here is significantly more likeable and inclined to expressing genuine emotion.
Anyway. During the funeral reception for their best friend Dan, Seph and Alex are hit with the bombshell news that Dan has left his ashes to them. While dying of cancer, he made a series of videos instructing them on the 4 places where he’d like his ashes to scatter. However, Alex and Seph aren’t too keen on the idea of a morbidly death-centric road trip. Both have (rather boring) jobs and steady relationships to maintain, so they decide to return to their usual routine.
Of course, this would be a very short film if the story were that simple. After Alex’s girlfriend turns out to be a cheater and Seph finally loses patience with her terrible job as a nanny, the two women hit the road. Not before Seph threatens Alex’s girlfriend in a rather touching scene and experience the uncomfortable truth about Dan’s resentful relationship with his mother. Is it too late to save that relationship?
The first stop on the journey is Glastonbury Abbey, though the tour guide at the abbey warns Seph and Alex they can’t scatter the ashes due to badgers(?!). They do eventually reach a compromise and seem to be going forth rather uneventfully until they receive an invitation to party that evening. Alex is reluctant to go along as we subscribe to the same school of thought when it comes to parties–what is a party for if not standing around looking uncomfortable and vaguely annoyed?
IDK what kind of party this is supposed to be, but it’s in a barn, features many party-goers in masks, and ends with the burning of a giant straw effigy. As far as cults go, perhaps one of the more harmless ones (unless you’re a straw effigy).
The next day, several of the party-goers/cult members join Alex and Seph on their trip. Their leader, Adam, is insufferable when everyone around him is sober, so it’s not long before our duo finds a way to ditch his crowd.
After Seph and Alex arrive at the next stop in Cardiff, tensions begin to roil. Since Alex’s mother lives in Cardiff, the two stay with her but experience obvious tension. Later, Seph hooks up with a guy she meets at a club that night. Still reeling after discovering her girlfriend’s infidelity, Alex becomes furious with Seph, making for an unpleasant drive to York.
As Dan’s video messages go on, he becomes increasingly bitter, expressing anger towards his mother, the petty concerns of his friends and their inability to really live. Dan crosses a line when he’s a bit too on the nose about Alex and Seph, who reconsider the trip altogether. Will Seph and Alex be able to honor Dan’s final wishes?
4/5 Pink Panther Heads
The relationship between Alex and Seph is the driving force behind this film, and succeeds in its strength and believability. At times they judge each other, disagree, and disapprove, but at the end of the day support and love each other.
I also love the dialogue here, especially early on. It’s very sharp, clever dialogue that reveals the nature of the two leads while embracing quite dark humor. One of Alex’s lines about the number of children who die while someone is eating a yogurt cracked me up.
Two criticisms, however. One: Dan seems like the kind of person who would annoy the bejeezus out of me in real life. He imagines himself this cool, laid-back rebel who’s dropping truth bombs left and right, but comes across as more of a lazy asshole who sits around providing commentary for other people’s lives instead of getting his shit together. The bigger problem is the uneven tone of this film. It’s initially very funny with admittedly very dark humor at times. As it wraps up, though, it becomes a much more tragic story that meanders a bit. Throw in the wise old hitchhiker trope and it becomes difficult to take it all seriously even though the finale of this film is quite sad.