FIRELIGHT is screenwriter William Nicholson's directorial debut, after he penned SHADOWLANDS and NELL. Set in England during the mid 1880s, the movie portrays an adulterous affair between a governess and a man whose beloved wife lies in a coma. An emotionally intense romantic drama, the movie includes several sexual scenes and takes a pagan view of a husband's duties to a comatose wife who cannot return his affections.
FIRELIGHT is screenwriter William Nicholson’s directorial debut, after penning SHADOWLANDS and NELL. An emotionally intense romantic drama, the movie includes several sexual scenes and takes a pagan, unbiblical view of a husband’s duties to a comatose wife who cannot return his affections.
Set in England during the mid 1880s, a Swiss governess, Elizabeth (Sophie Marceau), and a British aristocrat, Charles (Stephen Dillane), meet for three nights in a remote hotel in France to fulfill a secret business arrangement. Charles, whose wife has been in a coma for ten years, desires a child, and Elizabeth desperately wants to pay off her father’s debts. Neither one expects to develop strong passionate feelings for each other, but they have an affair. According to their agreement, the two go their separate ways, and, after nine months, Elizabeth gives birth to their daughter. The nurses quickly take away the baby to give to Charles, so Elizabeth never gets a chance to see her.
Not able to forget neither the first cries of her baby nor her intense feelings for Charles, Elizabeth searches for their whereabouts for seven years. Finally, she hears of an opening for a governess needed by Charles for his daughter, Louisa. Elizabeth quickly responds. Interviewed by Charles’ sister-in-law, Constance, she is hired without Charles knowledge. When Charles discovers Elizabeth, he is outraged and asks her to leave, giving her a month’s notice. In the meantime, Elizabeth tries to discipline the spoiled and out of control Louisa, not letting on that she is her mother. Elizabeth and Charles attempt to avoid each other, but they succumb to their fervent desires when Charles notices the change in his daughter.
Using engaging techniques to tell his story, writer/director Nicholson capitalizes on simplicity, empty rooms and a lack of color to focus on the character’s emotions. The drabness of the family’s home and the clothing reflects the way people conducted themselves and conformed to the acceptable standards of society at that time. The fire blazing in the fireplace symbolizes the burning passions locked up inside the souls of the leads. The attention to this detail powerfully demonstrates the experience of emptiness that existed as a result of strait-laced superficial rules, instead of God-breathed obedience.
The acting by Sophia Marceau, known for her role in BRAVEHEART, and Stephen Dillane, recently seen in WELCOME TO SARAJEVO, is superb. They communicate primarily by their facial expressions, eyes and body language.
Some may find the characters’ passion to be a bit over-dramatized. Charles struggles between loyalty to his comatose wife (whom he apparently loves very much) and his desire to reach out toward a woman who can return his affections. This issue is the major struggle explored in FIRELIGHT. Charles’ unconscious wife represents the lifelessness displayed in 1880 society, and Elizabeth represents Charles attempt to grasp life. This film demonstrates how individuals can be overpowered by their emotions to engage in sin. This particular theme reflects a romanticist worldview because it seems to say that human beings are essentially good and noble but have been corrupted by the societies in which they live.
Many will find the lovemaking scenes to be unnecessary and immoral. Ultimately, they reflect a pagan worldview about premarital sex as well as adultery. Some may argue that 1 Corinthians 7 would allow Charles to divorce his comatose wife as long as he provides for her. It certainly would not allow him, however, to have an adulterous affair, much less flirt with the idea of euthanasia in order to end his wife’s “suffering” so that he can start a new “family.”
(Pa, Ro, L, SSS, NN, A, M) Pagan worldview with romanticist elements revolving around an adulterous affair; 1 obscenity; no violence; several scenes of depicted adulterous sex between a man & his daughter's unmarried governess that are also excused if not advocated; upper female nudity & obscured full male nudity; alcohol use; no smoking or drug use; and, movie seems to advocate active euthanasia or mercy killing.