No, this film isn't about a bunch of rich hippies getting stoned in the Nevada desert. Burning Man is a beautifully wrought and fiercely subjective kaleidoscope of anger and grief, directed by Jonathan Teplitzky (Better than Sex, 2000). Matthew Goode gives a searing performance as Tom, a simmering Bondi chef who explodes in fits of road rage, drinks like a fish and tries to shag around. Tom’s young son Oscar (an impressive debut by Jack Heanly) is relegated to the sidelines, and Karen (Essie Davis) gets on his case about it.
Why has Tom gone off the rails? Eventually Teplitzky lets us in, temporally jumping backwards and forwards through a series of punchy vignettes. We meet the vivacious Sarah (Bojana Novakovic) and slowly Tom’s self-immolation makes sense. Goode and Novakovic are utterly devastating together on screen, although grief comes more convincingly to Goode than anger, which never entirely resounds. But as a portrayal of a phoenix rising from the ashes, Burning Man is a must see.
Published in The Big Issue #394
Watch The Movie Club episode on Burning Man