Sundance 2021: “Fire in the Mountains”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Under extreme circumstances, there is always an unusual solution to a pressing problem. And when that problem arrives in an already financially struggling family, it gets worse both psychologically and emotionally, turning it into an unbearable experience for one parent to carry the entire family on their shoulder.

Chandra (Vinamrata Rai) and her husband, Dharam (Chandan Bisht), run the Switzerland Homestay, a little hotel that is located in a small Himalayan village. The area they live in causes them lots of trouble with the road and makes it difficult for Chandra to carry her son to the doctor and school every day, either carrying him on her back or in a wheelchair. Doctors do not know how to cure her son’s disability, as there are no apparent signs of injury. Her husband is against his wife spending lots of money on medical treatment that can’t solve their son’s problem. He prefers a shamanic ritual instead, which he believes will provide a fruitful result.

Chandra is a very resourceful woman. While Dharam drinks, she makes money. How she makes it though, it’s never concrete, and we can only assume. Through the exceptional writing and direction of Ajitpal Singh, we are left to face very nuanced storytelling where two parents clash over their son and how Prakash should be treated. Prakash, on the other hand, knows about his situation and understands it is a psychological effect that has left him paralyzed. At some point, you won’t trust nor like Dharam. Because he is against everything his wife does, despite the fact he appeared very friendly and loving in the beginning. But as the story unfolds, we understand his psychological wounds too and can’t help but emphasize with him even though his actions are too harsh to support him throughout.

“Fire in the Mountains” is the perfect title to describe the most important showdown of the film when the entire family must face their reality, go through hell and re-emerge as victors. It will take time for them to find the right path towards happiness and long-waited result. Until then, it’s all about baby steps Chandra and Dharam, instead of getting angry at each other, must take if they want change to happen in their life.

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