Early this year, Hallmark Hall of Fame productions made a drastic change. It moved from its long-time “permanent” home on CBS to ABC. The move takes us by surprise as we immediately wonder if this wonderful series is coming to an end after over two-hundred films. Once surprise wears off, it’s more a question of why CBS puts an end to things. Now, Firelight marks the debut move to a new network..
Firelight (2012) Hallmark Hall of Fame TV Film Review
There isn’t much you can do when a young person decides to throw away their life. As a counselor at a correctional facility, D.J. (Cuba Gooding Jr.) doesn’t have an easy job. Every day, he sees broken young people whose lives are not only ruined by the choices they’ve make but from neglect or domestic abuse. The facility houses only women and D.J. sees – despite the attitudes and pasts, these women are better than what they think in their capacity as convicts. Instead of merely counseling them to betterment, D.J. comes up with a program that will show the girls they can do good works – to help them feel a sense of belonging and hope in heroic acts they train for. Then he meets Caroline (Q’orianka Kilcher).
Only seventeen, she’s bitter over the betrayal of a boyfriend, and yet still, she forgives him. Caroline seems like the one girl D.J. has to work extra hard at reaching. Despite her closed personality, D.J. sees something in Caroline that her fellow inmates do not. Determined to reach her, he encourages Caroline to join Crew 9; a team that not only fights forest fires but also saves civilian lives – offering each of these women a chance at redemption in the process. Crew leader, Terri (DeWanda Wise) has a past that every day she re-lives – a single moment she would give almost anything to change. Feeling as if Caroline could use a friend, through D.J. and Terri’s help, she may be able to “buy herself back,” learning to live again.
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In case I haven’t told you all, generally speaking, I love the productions that Hallmark Hall of Fame brings to our television screens. To my surprise, Firelight is a memorable piece of film work. Behind the lens, the writing and directing is by two people who are no stranger to Hallmark. Additionally, it’s producer is Brent Shields (Beyond the Blackboard, Loving Leah, The Russell Girl, and countless others), yet another familiar name to television productions.
Primarily, the movie is Caroline’s story. It opens by telling us why she’s in the facility but as the film progresses, we know little of her history; why she makes the decisions she does. We make an educated guess that she’s abused, which leads to the assumption that she’s in foster care. These two hours are most kind to Terri in terms of a back-story. We learn the pain of her past and can “feel” it through the screen – we understand why she is a broken soul who has still managed to “move on” in spite of the mistake that cost her not just her once happy, carefree life but also the eventual loss of her mother whom she cannot “help.”
Anyone who is familiar with Kilcher’s name or work will know what kind of actress she is. She’s an expressionless actor, who looks angry most the time. Her anger and sorrow is evident in nearly every frame, rarely does she even crack a smile. Each and every one of the ladies in this film is phenomenal. Wise plays Terri with the right amount of raw emotion and heartbreak. Then there’s Cuba Gooding Jr. He’s equally marvelous in his role..
Firelight packs a lot of emotions. Sorrow that a girl repeats her mistakes and cannot make good on her second chance. Disappointment that another refuses her father. Heartbreak when we realize the extent of the reasons behind some of the girls wind up where they do. Even in this, there’s poignancy, too, and despite a typically ambiguous Hallmark ending, the movie is solid. There are tears, yes, but it is a tale of redemption that ultimately will triumph over temptations. That is what leads to a smile.
Content: there are implications one of the girls has a child [presumably out-of-wedlock]; the girls pick fights and attempt to injure the “new” girl [nothing graphic]. Another girl re-counts her crime [a hit and run]. There are two dramatic rescues; one involves a fire, another shows a car lying on its side after going over a cliff but again, nothing is graphic. There are implications of abuse and conversations about joining gangs. The rating is TV-PG.