I assumed We Burn Like This would delve deeper into heritage and Judaism in its exploration of a Holocaust survivor descendant. Instead, it focuses more on the lead’s relationship with religion than with Jewish culture. The new drama, part of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, is a modern coming of age story. It deals with Rae (Madeleine Coghlan) as she grapples with issues of self-identity, faith and addiction. Her best friend, Chrissy (Devery Jacobs), begins to drift apart when she falls for a new man, leaving Rae in a destructive free fall. A rocky relationship with her mother and a toxic older man with questionable intentions color Rae’s potential future. Writer and director Alana Waksman pulls from personal experience, crafting an intimate look at immigrant identity and historical trauma.
The acting performances are terrific, and I loved the film’s final act, when it embraces the themes and concepts teased all along. In this way, it reflects the character of Rae and her journey to be more intimate with her faith. It’s a slow-burn flavor that I’m not sure was my personal cup of tea. The messages and meaning behind the film are fueled by passion that bleeds through in screaming, flashing and burning visuals. I can see many falling in love with We Burn Like This, with Madeleine Coghlan’s Rae being a true standout.
We Burn Like This screened as a selection of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, March 31st – April 10th.