Coming home has been a common theme in coming of age flicks, with ensembles like The Big Chill displaying the concept. Continuing with that central theme is Burning Bodhi, which follows a group of friends who stumble back home when their friend Bodhi suddenly passes away. The reunion stirs up old feelings, while making amends with past mistakes.
As a celebration of life and examination of loss, Burning Bodhi is a worthwhile effort. Although not entirely devoid of cliches and a few hokey moments, the film is an honest, emotionally resonant entry in the coming of age genre.
Australian scribe Matthew McDuffie has written some intriguing, yet half-baked flicks with A Cool Dry Place and The Face of Love. Here, McDuffie is behind the director’s chair for the first time, yet shows great poise. Along with cinematographer David Myrick, the duo create a naturalistic, yet precise look. Each frame features a great deal of thought, revealing details about the characters through slight glances.
McDuffie’s approach to the drama at hand is very reserved. Reminiscent of Zach Braff’s Garden State, the characters are meditative introverts, requiring some patience by viewers as the characters’ quietly develop. This approach thankfully works, effectively displaying the flawed characters’ suppressed pain that has damaged their lives.
Capturing these angsty young adults is a cast very much up for the challenge. Perhaps the highlight is Kaley Cuoco, with the Big Bang Theory star delivering a career best performance. Cuoco presents a very much stripped-down character, as a single mother hiding her pain in drugs. Thankfully, she is able to feel quite natural in the part, getting a much-needed shot to show her dramatic chops. Landon Liboiron, Cody Horn and Virginia Madsen also deliver solid work with their respective parts.
McDuffie’s script features a bevy of thematic material. The simple narrative is jam-packed with themes, with McDuffie thankfully having something of interest to say about ideas of forgiveness and moving on from loss. As with his previous efforts, McDuffie’s effort is an imperfect one.
As far as dialogue goes, there are a few groan-inducing moments. Some of the character’s more meditative monologues feature dialogue that is a bit too precious, being the kind of over thought ideas that people don’t really say. These lines can take the audience out of what are otherwise well-executed moments.
Burning Bodhi also suffers from its ambition. Despite being a mere 91 minutes long, there are quite a few characters that play a pivotal role. Subplots involving one of the character’s divorced parents feel like over-kill, further cementing a point that is already crystal clear.
Admirable in its ambition, yet imperfect with the final result, Burning Bodhi works more than it doesn’t. As a whole, McDuffie delivers a solid coming of age flick, featuring some effective moments and a memorable performance from Cuoco. Hopefully she continues to expand as a dramatic actress.