Review by Camden Ferrell
Based on Sergey Fetisov’s memoir, The Story of Roman, Firebird is a new romantic war drama. It is the feature directorial debut of Peeter Rebane and has played at numerous festivals around the world since it premiered in 2021. This is an honest and true story, but aside from a pretty great and cathartic ending, the rest of the movie doesn’t feel like it’s as compelling as it could have been.
Sergey is a young man in the early days of his military service. One day, he meets a fighter pilot named Roman. Together, they navigate the line between friendship and love. In addition to this, they form a love triangle with the secretary to the base commander, and they all face turmoil in their own lives due to this ordeal. This is a great story with lots of layers and unique characters each with their own set of woes. On paper, this is a great foundation for a movie to make a moving and emotional story out of.
The writing for this movie is a bit of a mixed bag. It handles the romance aspects of the characters very well, but when it comes to creating the backdrop of Communist-ruled Estonia, it feels flat. In addition to that, the characters don’t feel fully fleshed out at times, and this makes it hard to feel particularly invested in their relationships. The movie also feels slow and unevenly paced at times, and this can prevent the audience from getting invested early on.
The acting in the movie is above average. Tom Prior, Oleg Zagorodnii, and Diana Pozharskaya star as Sergey, Roman, and Luisa respectively. They all have good chemistry and none of them outperform the others, but it feels too reserved in the first half of the movie. By the final act, they each are able to perform very well with the catharsis and drama of those moments.
Overall, the movie has such a strong ending but is brought down from the start by an underwhelming set up. Rebane has proven that he knows how to achieve truly emotional moments, but his next goal should be to make something more consistent in quality and execution.
Despite its flaws, some may find themselves thoroughly engaged by this war era romance. Being based on a true story, there is some authenticity present, but the movie doesn’t know how to capitalize on it until it’s too late. Regardless, there are more good things happening than bad, but it’s still underwhelming considering its source material.
Firebird is in theaters April 29.