TIFF 2016 Review: Brain on Fire
Brain on Fire tells the fascinating true story of Susannah Cahalan (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her rapid descent into an unknown illness. As she is descending into this illness, she is constantly misdiagnosed by her doctors and pushed into using medication that didn’t help. Through the help of Dr. Najjar (Navid Negahban), they can hope to identify and then cure her of her illness. The story is absolutely fascinating with perfect pacing and runtime. The story is engaging and keeps your interest for the duration of the film.
The performance by Chloë Grace Moretz is superb and stunning. She is mesmerizing as she portrays the symptoms and struggles that the real Susannah faced. Alongside her, there is a really strong supporting cast including Jenny Slate and Tyler Perry who play her work partner and boss. They do a great job along with her parents, played by Carrie-Anne Moss and Richard Armitage. These characters offer a well-rounded film, allowing Chloë’s performance to shine. The only miscast I struggled with was the casting of Thomas Mann as her boyfriend, Stephen. I had difficulty feeling the chemistry and believing the relationship between the two.
I give major kudos to Mr. Barrett who did an incredible job directing this film. I’ve seen many a story where the director gets too overly artsy and creative with the visuals to demonstrate a symptom or illness that it detracts from the story. In this film, it is done perfectly and enough to convey the symptoms and emotions without being overbearing. He also took the time to develop the character and her personality before the illness, making the contrast even more drastic. The focus of the film remained on telling a story that would be faithful to Susannah and the countless other people who have this illness. Brain on Fire is a fascinating film, with superb directing and acting all around. A truly excellent film.