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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Eve and The Firehorse
Eve and The Firehorse
Mongrel Media // PG // September 12, 2006
List Price: $27.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted February 3, 2007 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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Eve and the Fire Horse is a story about family, childhood, and religion. Most importantly, it's a film about belief. Never would a tale about godly discovery within a nine-year old be anywhere near as convincing as with this film. This wonderful Sundance confection delivers an easygoing dose of philosophy behind a clever coming-of-age drama. Directed Julia Kwan has crafted a film brimming with warmth and wisdom.


The Film:

Eve (Phoebe Kut) and Karena (Hollie Lo) are sisters within the Eng household, a typical Canadian-Chinese family during the '70s that includes their father, mother, and their elder grandmother. Confucian principles and a cloud of other spiritually-bound beliefs fill the Eng household. One old belief is that of the zodiac symbol "fire horse" that recurs every 60 years. Children born under this zodiac were notorious for being the most hard-headed and mischievous people. Eve Eng happens to be one of these fire horses.

Amidst living a typical life, the girl's world would soon crumble amidst tragedy. It all starts with the removal of a tree outside of the Eng family's residence. Mother to the siblings and remover of the evil tree, May Lin's acts catalyzes a brimming force of bad luck that leads to the miscarriage of her expected child. Bedridden and soaking in depression, she disappears from the girls' life. Through a string of absurdly wicked misfortune starting with this initial catastrophe, the family's elder grandmother passes on.

Mixed information regarding time, death, and the afterlife serves as the spark underneath the sisters' flame of self discovery. Eve struggles over reincarnation principles regarding goldfish and the appearance of spirits after their bodies leave this world. Karena, on the other hand, follows the more concrete path after a traveling Christian evangelist gives her a cheerful "book of God" illustrating peace on earth and a clear pathway to heaven. Eve's open nature sees both the gods of Christianity and Buddhism as acquaintances, even friends that might dance during the night much like their Buddhist saints. Karena, after compiling a school report on her "gift" and attending a few Sunday school classes, sees only what this book tells her: anything else not stated in the Bible is sacrilege. With a void mother and an absent father that has traveled to China to ritualistically bury their grandmother, the girls develop and mold without the aid of much parental guidance. Once the mother fades back into the picture, she views Karena's adoption of Catholicism as a great way to double-up on good fortune by having two deities in one household. Plus, she hears it's good to have Christian children.

Starting out as a smooth-paced, gentle drama, Eve and the Fire Horse transcends into an amusingly poignant insight into the conflict between two quite different doctrines. More importantly, this film quietly ushers in a contrast between religion and belief. It's quite obvious to see the heart and soul thumping within director Kwan's touching story. She takes her time telling this tale, opting for a graceful, mild pace with plenty of contemplative down time. It's easy to enjoy this time to reflect when viewing a quite elegantly photographed film amidst two shining young stars.

Eve and the Fire Horse thrives so well on its compelling, fanciful base due to reinforced character strength through quality performances and a natural, strong script. Without the talent of Phoebe Kut and Hollie Lo especially, Eve and the Fire Horse wouldn't have such a distinctive charm. Kut embodies Eve with a whimsically misguided aura that only such a "fire horse" might have. This fire horse's rollercoaster of heartbreak and revival pours through effortlessly. Hollie Lo, however, comes close to stealing the show with her spot-on portrayal of a freshly-molded, strictly-bound Catholic. The energy and persistent fire she conveys rages much like the fire and brimstone she adheres to so fervently. Though intense conflict doesn't rear its ugly head often in Eve and the Fire Horse, energy is undoubtedly present throughout the film from the presence of these compelling sisters.

Ultimately rewardingly and sublimely smooth in pace, Eve and the Fire Horse lays the foundation early for an enjoyable insight into a religiously developing family. Through easy humor and a resonant host of characters, this film succeeds in delivering a message without cramming anything down the throat. Thanks to pleasant cinematography and a comfortably sincere script, director Julia Kwan has followed through with her premiere full-length feature with poignant grace.


The DVD:

Mongrel has presented Eve and the Fire Horse in a single-disc keepcase DVD with original poster art for the cover art. The anamorphic menus feature still photographs and manipulated scenes from the film.

The Video:

Eve and The Fire Horse is presented in a pristine 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Lush with color and detail, this independent film looks incredible. Though the film isn't drenched with awe-inspiringly gorgeous cinematography, the beautiful shots occurring throughout the film are subtly poignant. Mongrel made certain to do this attribute justice by proving a truly fine transfer to convey this tremendous quality.

The Audio:

Primarily dialogue based, Eve and the Fire Horse relies on the clarity of its witty, natural dialogue and soothing score. Presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, the character's voices echoed true through the speakers. Dialogue never appeared muffled or unclear. Plus, the score retains an enchanting quality throughout the film's duration. Overall, the aural quality compliments the visuals in quality extremely well.

The Extras:

Though not overflowing with additional material, the bits that are available on the Eve and the Fire Horse DVD are quite good:

A Commentary with Julia Kwan, Nicolas Bolduc, and Phoebe Kut is quite insightful. Since this is such a personal film for Kwan, many of the scenes have specific significance to events that happened within her life. She conveys this connection to a very honest degree in the commentary. Plus, the bits that Phoebe Kut (Eve) interjects during the commentary are pretty interesting to hear. The commentary seemed quite insightful and focused on the content of the film.

A few Deleted Scenes are available; however, gauging from my viewing, these items were very wise cuts in the film.

Here's quite a delight: One of Julie Kwan's Short Films "Three Sisters on Moon Lake" is included. This dark, wonderfully crafted short film is another extremely potent venture into spiritual growth and coming-of-age. Three sisters, seemingly reincarnated goddesses, grow to worship the spirit of a rat their mother has killed. Kwan's additional short film is undoubtedly worth a look.

Plus, two trailers are included: one for Eve and the Fire Horse, the other for Lucid.

Though the disc lacks any kind of Making Of featurettes or press materials from its success at Sundance, the included short film and commentary make up for these shortcomings.


Final Thoughts:

Eve and the Fire Horse is Julia Kwan's introductory feature-length triumph. Filmed with grace, heart, and subtle beauty, this film was crafted with delicacy and love. Kwan leisurely paces the film to allow absorption of the struggle these sisters must endure during their spiritual discovery. Packed with an excellent video/audio quality and the inclusion of one of director Kwan's beautiful short films, this disc comes Highly Recommended.



Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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