Derived from a successful off-Broadway, THE SUBSTANCE OF FIRE revolves around the patriarchal dominance of Isaac Geldhart. Isaac is in his graying years with three grown children. Aaron runs the family’s publishing house, Martin is a physically fragile landscape architectural teacher and Sarah has turned to the world of children’s television for a living. Things are not right at the publishing house. Isaac is determined on publishing serious books. When Aaron goes against his father’s wishes and publishes a book called The Rising Tide by his male lover on male sexuality, the situation comes to a head. At a confrontational family meeting, all three children tell the father that he is wrong. Isaac turns on his children and starts his own company with the sole intention of publishing his own book. It takes a family tragedy before some semblance of self-acceptance grows on Isaac.
Ron Rifkin’s performance as the unyeilding, rigid, arrogant, and oftentimes cruel Isaac Geldhart is mesmerizing. The remaining cast does just as superbly. The screenplay is insightful, cutting across banalities and facades to the pain inside each of the characters. The more wonderful aspect of the film is its portrayal of family bonds. Regrettably, it has some obscenities, sexual situations and a homosexual relationship.
(B, Ho, LLL, V, SS) Moral worldview with a theme of strong family ties & loyalties with mild homosexual elements; 15 vulgarities, 10 obscenities & 10 profanities; a brief tussle between father & son; 2 implied sexual situations & a father and son having a frank conversation about sex; and, miscellaneous immorality