“Black thorns and roses, smiles and tears
They’re sown together and grow so near.”
1977, Haapsalu, Estonia. Private Sergey Serebrennikov (Tom Prior) is finishing up his mandatory service and is about to return home after graduation, to get a job. He’s a sweet young man who loves to swim with his friends Volodja (Jake Henderson) and Louisa (Diana Pozharskaya), take photos and has a huge crush on Lieutenant Roman Matvejev (Oleg Zagorodnii). Roman has a charm to him that allows Sergey to open up and admit that he one day dreams of being an actor. They carry on an affair for as long as they can, but eventually the KGB has reasons to suspect there are are immoral things happening under the cloak of night.
Torn between love of country and love for each other, and fearing what would happen if their secret was discovered, Roman puts an end to their relationship and Sergey moves to Moscow to study acting. After five years apart, Sergey is now a well adjusted adult who manages to find a tribe that accepts him for who he is and allows him to grow as a human. Everything seems to be going well, until Roman comes back into his life and undoes everything Sergey did to move on.
Once again, homosexuality in the military don’t mix. Two people who form a bond shouldn’t have to compromise for a nation that wants to control everything about their people. People will go to extreme lengths to survive in a world that doesn’t care for them if it means that they get to live one more day. Young love is meant to be challenging, but there are limits to what a young heart can endure.
Co-written by Tom Prior and director Peeter Rebane, Firebird is a bleak tale of how fear can ruin a person’s life. In the vein of Brokeback Mountain mixed with Call Me By Your Name, this film shows another tragic love story that’s doomed from the start, but somehow gives the audience a sliver of hope that our doomed lovers will be able to be together before the end credits roll. Loosely based on the life of Sergei Fetisov, the emotions run high and the romance is palpable. With stellar performances by the leads who manage to go through the stages of break up grief seamlessly as the story progresses, this film should be held high as a classic example how sometimes love doesn’t always conquer all, but even the smallest glimmer of happiness can get you through the darkest times.
Reviewed April 25, 2022 (screener provided by publicist) Rating: R. Running time: 107 min.
PRODUCTION: A Roadside Attractions release of a The Factory, No Reservations Entertainment, Firebird Production & Film Estonia production. Producers: Tom Prior, Peeter Rebane & Brigita Rozenbrika. Executive producers: Mauro Durant, Michael Edelstein & Priit Rebane.
CREW: Director: Peeter Rebane. Writers: Peeter Rebane, Tom Prior & Sergey Fetisov. Editing: Tambet Tasuja. Cinematography: Mait Mäekivi. Music: Krzysztof A. Janczak.
CAST: Tom Prior, Oleg Zagorodnii, Diana Pozharskaya, Jake Thomas Henderson, Margus Prangel, Nicholas Woodeson, Ester Kuntu & Kaspar Velberg.