Digging for Fire (2015)

Digging for Fire (2015)
  • Time: 85 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Joe Swanberg
  • Cast: Anna Kendrick, Orlando Bloom, Brie Larson, Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt


The discovery of a bone and a gun sends a husband and wife on separate adventures over the course of a weekend. DIGGING FOR FIRE is directed by Joe Swanberg, co-written by Jake Johnson and Joe Swanberg and starring Jake Johnson, Rosemarie Dewitt, Orlando Bloom, Brie Larson, Sam Rockwell, Anna Kendrick and Mike Birbiglia.

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  • There is something amazing happening in the Swanberg household for both Kris and Joe Swanberg have delivered their best films to date this year. The former brought forth Unexpected, which explored a young woman’s identity crisis as marriage and motherhood approached. Now the latter presents Digging for Fire, which starts as a mild murder mystery before mutating into a meditation on marriage, parenthood, and individuality.

    Jake Johnson and Rosemarie DeWitt play Tim and Lee, a married couple who are spending the weekend house-sitting in the Hollywood Hills. It’s a nice change of scenery for the two, who dwell in an East L.A. duplex with their three-year-old son Jude (a scene-stealing Jude Swanberg). This is no holiday, however, as Lee wants Tim to use the time to complete their taxes. Tim, of course, would rather do anything but deal with the mound of receipts that litter the dining room table. It’s a source of friction as is deciding whether to send their son to a public or private school.

    A dissatisfied Lee decides to take Jude to visit her parents with the hope that they can help look after him so she can have some time to herself. She wonders aloud to her mother (Judith Light) when life can go back to normal and she can return to herself. When you get divorced, her mother quips. Her father (Sam Elliott) concedes that marriage is a tricky affair – are you a couple or are you a person? Is being in love getting what you want or giving somebody what they want?

    Lee wishes to be distracted from such twisty thoughts and is severely disappointed when her old friend (Melanie Lynskey) drops out on their girls’ night out. The change in plans leads to an encounter with a handsome stranger named Ben (Orlando Bloom), with whom she develops a connection.

    As Lee predicted, Tim is not exactly taking care of his responsibilities in her absence. Some old pals, including straitlaced Phil (Mike Birbiglia) and troublemaking twosome Ray (Sam Rockwell) and Billy (Chris Messina), stop by for a night of drinking beer, snorting cocaine, and swimming in the pool. Billy has also brought along some female company in the fetching forms of Alicia (Anna Kendrick) and Max (Brie Larson). Max may lead Tim into temptation if he can tear himself away long enough from digging up the backyard.

    Ah, the digging. Whilst Lee’s portion of the film may be more barefaced in it dissection of the film’s themes, Tim’s quest to literally unearth the mystery of the rusty revolver and bone he discovered on the property is symbolic of trying to find something that may not exist or exacerbating the distance between himself and his wife. “You don’t want to find anything down there,” a neighbour (Tom Bower) warns. “Be careful what you wish for and be mindful of the threads you pull on.”

    Swanberg and Johnson’s insightful screenplay is sure to resonate with those who may feel trapped in the institution of marriage; who may long for days of feckless youth even as they’re further entrenched in the quagmire of obligations that accompany marriage and parenthood; and who may come to realise that raising a child may compromise the ability to connect as husband and wife. “There’s a little bit of loss that happens [between me and my wife],” Tim confesses to Max, “because…it’s just so much more exciting to put everything into that kid.”

    Digging for Fire marks a large step forward for Swanberg, who executes his most cinematic effort to date. There are touches of Altman and Rossellini in the way Swanberg observes the behaviour of his characters, all of whom are brought to vivid life by the impressive ensemble cast. Cinematographer Ben Richardson, shooting in 35mm, brings a crisp lushness to the compositions. Composer Dan Romer crafts a score that is both contemplative and surreal, lending an off-kilter quality that adds another intriguing layer to Swanberg’s felicity of a film.

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