The Burning Season

Mar 8, 2024 | Posted by in Movies

A couple carries out a secret affair confined to the summers spent at a lake resort in Sean Garrity’s The Burning Season.

Stories about affairs are a tricky proposition as there is a significant risk that the audience won’t invest in the characters because they are being duplicitous and cheating on their partners. An affair is an inherently ugly situation as it’s likely that multiple people will end up being hurt by the truth coming out. There are many ways to tell that story such as an unhappy relationship or a mistake being made in the heat of the moment prompting the infidelity. Different approaches also exist regarding the characters, whether inviting the audience to understand the reasons for their actions or condemning them and looking for them to receive the punishment they deserve.

Burning Season

Burning passion

The Burning Season encourages the audience to at least understand the reasons behind the characters being drawn to each other. Flawed characters are usually far more interesting and the film never shies away from the fact that its leads are damaged people who don’t process trauma or cope with hardship in the most healthy ways. The story is told in reverse with details of the evolution of their affair being clarified as the narrative travels further back in time. It’s a novel approach that works really well as the structure of the narrative stands out as an unconventional way of telling a story like this. Mystery and intrigue are created by the characters referring to events in their past that the audience hasn’t seen yet. Such references are paid off by witnessing the events and adding texture to the relationship. It’s a story that would make sense if viewed chronologically but the structure adds weight to statements as context is later added. Telling the story in reverse also frames the narrative as a tragedy as the viewer is always aware of where the affair is heading. The opening establishes a painful end point that is later fleshed out once the viewer has all the information they need for it to have the required impact. A sharp script brings the elements together wonderfully to create a powerful conclusion that is excellently informed by the exploration of this illicit relationship.

JB (Jonas Chernick) and Alena (Sara Canning) are irresistibly drawn to each other and carry out their illicit affair during the summers that Alena spends at JB’s resort with her husband, Tom (Joe Pingue). They conduct their affair under the noses of Tom and JB’s partner, Poppy (Tanisha Thammavongsa) when out for runs in the wilderness or otherwise alone. Their connection extends beyond the physical as Alena leans on JB for emotional support while keeping her inner demons hidden from her husband. There’s a great deal of complexity to the characters and their relationships. Tom and Poppy aren’t as developed as JB and Alena but this seems deliberate as the script only needs to convey that they are good people who don’t mistreat their partners. In particular, Alena’s relationship with Tom seems very healthy on the surface and none of the issues Alena confesses to JB are about him. It’s strongly suggested that she’s afraid Tom won’t accept her if she reveals her true self to him and only JB can understand how damaged she truly is. The film doesn’t quite provide enough detail on JB and Alena’s relationships with their partners. It’s especially noticeable with JB and Poppy as much of their connection is off screen so there’s a disconnect when they are shown together.


Burning off calories

The focus on JB and Alena allows the viewer to understand the mechanics of their relationship. It’s explored very well with the emotional component receiving a lot of attention. It’s a healthy yet unhealthy relationship as each answers a need in the other that they can’t find anywhere else but it’s also evident that they bring out the worst in each other. Their affair is situational and founded on significant baggage. The film portrays it as a bomb ready to explode at any moment with only the emotional support and passion sustaining it.

Alena’s standoffish attitude is the perfect counterbalance to JB’s more levelheaded approach to life. JB is shown to have taken significant steps to overcome his issues by understanding what they are and working hard to change as a person. Jonas Chernick plays him as being very calm with a lot of passion just beneath the surface that manifests around Alena. It’s an impressively reserved portrayal that showcases a deliberate effort to remain controlled when there is a strong temptation to relinquish that control. By contrast, Alena is almost entirely blunt and has cultivated a hard outer shell that keeps people at a distance. Sara Canning’s performance is impressively nuanced as her prickly exterior weakens under certain circumstances. Alena is clearly comfortable around Tom and it’s evident that he makes her happy but her relationship with JB is singular and has been deepened by a shared darkness in their past. This is aided by excellent chemistry between the two leads that make their interactions captivating.

A picturesque and isolated setting almost functions as another character. It remains static while the people visiting it change. Being miles from civilisation and surrounded by greenery makes for a romantic environment that starkly contrasts the lack of romance to be found in JB and Alena’s affair. There’s a claustrophobic quality to the setting as there is no way of avoiding the only other people there which adds to JB’s distress as he finds himself unable to move on from Alena. Confining the bulk of the film to a single setting contains the narrative to a specific place and time of the year. Life happens in between and the setting allows what has changed to be explored.

The Burning Season more than succeeds at what it sets out to do. It’s a thoughtful and complex exploration of an illicit relationship between flawed and damaged characters. The unconventional structure and sharp script complement each other nicely to create an experience that feels fresh and doesn’t shy away from the messiness of relationships.


Burning property


A thoughtful and complex exploration of an illicit relationship between flawed and damaged characters that makes excellent use of an unconventional structure and sharp script to create an experience that feels fresh and doesn’t shy away from the messiness of relationships.

  • The Burning Season


Kneel Before…

  • the unconventional structure
  • a sharp script
  • strong performances from the leads who share excellent chemistry
  • Alena and JB serving as the perfect counterbalance to each other
  • not shying away from the complexity of the illicit relationship
  • the setting almost serving as another character


Rise Against…

  • the committed relationships being comparatively less fleshed out


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