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Review: ‘Digging For Fire’ is an organic take on marriage and parenthood (Includes first-hand account)

In Digging For Fire, the couple attempts to conquer and challenge their seeming loss of individuality, freedom, and identity as a result of becoming interwoven due to their relationship, along with grappling to remember who they were prior to marriage and parenthood. Digging For Fire is completed by a strong, versatile cast, including two of Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies cast members (Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston), Orlando Bloom, Brie Larson, Sam Elliott, Sam Rockwell, Melanie Lynskey, Megan Mercier, and Mike Birbiglia, among others. Though not too much occurs in terms of heightened conflict and the film does bear a striking resemblance to Swanberg’s earlier Drinking Buddies (2013), Digging For Fire succeeds in how relatable it is — given the portrayal of the emotional costs of marriage and having a family, working remarkably in conjunction with its exceptional, 35mm cinematography (Ben Richardson), moving score (Dan Romer), and laid-back, organic tone.

Tim (Johnson) and Lee (DeWitt) are young parents of Jude — played by Jude Swanberg, Joe Swanberg’s child who also stole every scene he was in in 2014’s Happy Christmas. Lee, a yoga instructor, and Tim are offered the opportunity to housesit for one of the former’s clients in the Hollywood Hills. The stay, which is meant to be relaxing, is abruptly interrupted when Tim discovers a bone and an antiquated gun in the backyard, which he is immensely intrigued by, but his wife suggests evading unraveling the mystery. Lee would rather Tim focus on the family’s taxes, which he has been avoiding doing. The battling over continuing digging versus completing the family’s taxes leads the parents to agree to a separation for the weekend: Lee decides to travel to her mother’s (Light) for the weekend and leaves Jude there, as she is in desperate need for an evening out alone. Whereas, Tim is left to complete the taxes, but instead, he opts to continue digging in hopes of finding more clues and invites friends over for a rendezvous of hard partying.

After Lee departs from her client’s abode, the film’s narrative splits into two forms, showcasing Lee’s adventures sans her husband and Tim’s experiences back at the Hollywood Hills home. Tim had promised to not dig up the yard, thereby he invited over the group of male friends for eating meat and to enjoy a chill, evidently mild boys-night-in. The night appears tame for the guys until Ray (Rockwell) enters, bringing along with him ready-to-party girls (Anna Kendrick and Brie Larson) and cocaine. Though Tim maintains his responsibility and does not party as much as the others, the enticing nature of continuing the dig captivates him, as he sets out to dig up the yard, later with the help from Max (Larson).

The budding friendship between Max and Tim is borderline precarious at times — especially when the pair heads out to dinner together, which more-or-less seems like a date — exemplifying the alluring nature of temptation that Swanberg continues to touch on in his films. On her own quest for a semblance of adventure and independence, Lee ends up spending her evening with a motorcycle driving, knight in shining armor-esque Ben (Bloom). She had originally intended on sharing her evening with married friends (Livington and Lynskey), but they do not have it in them to head out for the night. Ultimately, though, the avid references to potential infidelity continue to draw extreme similarities to Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies (2013).

With Digging For Fire, Swanberg has generated an easily relatable film that details how aging is difficult to accept, exemplifies the struggle of retaining your individuality while married, and showcases how parenting is nonetheless rewarding but also substantially difficult and requires compromise. Digging For Fire is primarily moody and mysterious, but its ending suggests that in relationships — or perhaps, even in life in general — some things are better off not being dug up and are better off remaining unspoken.

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