Incendiary is a film with strong ambitions and weak results. It is a film with an earnest plot and performances that are adequate to the material, but never reaches the level the director and creative team behind the picture aspire to reach. It is okay for multiple films to explore similar territories and themes, but only if they are done right and executed efficiently. Incendiary is often cliché-ridden, but has no spark of originality, which will only result in the disengagement of audiences.

The versatile Michelle Williams plays The Young Mother (the credits do not name the mother) who is a meek, soft-spoken woman who engages in adulterous affairs. One night out in a pub she meets Jasper (Ewan McGregor). The Young Mother is sitting alone, enjoying a cigarette, a drink and the simplicity of peace and quiet, when Jasper approaches her. Jasper is out enjoying a night with a few friends, who dared him to approach the Young Mother and ask her name; in return he would receive a monetary prize.

On her lonely night out, The Young Mother surely did not expect to end up back at Jasper’s apartment but she does. A one night stand ensues, and The Young Mother is wracked with guilt as she goes back to her husband and young son. Despite the guilt she feels, she continues her affair with Jasper.

Her husband and son are at a soccer game one afternoon, and The Young Mother finds this to be a great opportunity to engage in her affair with Jasper. While they are having sex, with the soccer game in the background, an explosion occurs at the stadium in which her husband and young son are at. A terrorist attack took place at the stadium, and the Young Mother’s husband and son were two of the thousands of victims.

Incendiary explores themes of passion and love and the guilt and heart ache that could follow. The Young Mother is consumed with guilt and grief and she struggles to continue living her life after her the attack. Terrence (Matthew Mcfayden) who worked with the Young Mother’s husband professes his long time love for her, while Jasper continually pursues her. But much to both of the gentlemen’s dismay, The Young Mother cannot be bothered with a new relationship.

While watching Incendiary, a much superior film kept coming to mind. That film would be 2003’s 21 Grams, with Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. Similar themes are explored and are done much more successfully. The problem with Incendiary is not with the performances, especially the strong turn from Michelle Williams, but with the heavy handed and one note script that never seems to peak. It is a film that is serious and devastating, yet emotionally anti-climatic.


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