Movie Review: She Who Must Burn

she who must burn poster


Director: Larry Kent
Writers: Larry Kent
Stars: Sarah Smyth, Bart Anderson, Steve Bradley


Writer/director Larry Kent pulls absolutely no punches with She Who Must Burn. This is a film that is unapologetically in favor of a woman’s right to choose while also taking a look at the religious zealots who attack these women. This is not a feel good movie or a way to mindlessly spend 90 minutes. This is a gut punch of a film that took this viewer by surprise in all of the very best ways.

In a no-name small town where the economy rests on the shoulders of the local mine, women are experiencing an inordinate amount of still born babies. While it’s obvious to some that it’s the chemicals being dumped into the water by the mine that is causing these still births, a faction of the town believes it is the direct result of Angela moving to town. Angela (Sara Smyth) provides a clinic/counseling service out of her house where she helps women gain access to health care and sometimes this includes abortions. Despite her funding being cut and a double homicide recently taking place at the local clinic, she refuses to leave town or back down. As we see various people come to her for help, the different ways that women and their bodies are marginalized are highlighted.

As one couple goes to seek counsel from Jeremiah Baarker, (Shane Twerden who also co-wrote the script) the leader of the local extreme religious group, we see one predicament play out. The wife has been told by her doctor that if she delivers her baby, both her and the baby will die. While her husband pleads with her to abort the baby in order to save herself and still be around for her two other children, she holds steadfast in her religious belief that doing so will damn her eternal soul. Meanwhile, Jeremiah’s sister Rebecca (Missy Cross) gives birth to a still born baby and it’s truly heartbreaking. As Rebecca, her husband Caleb (Andrew Dunbar) and Jeremiah bury the baby, Jeremiah sees this as a sign.

she who must burn image

Enter Jewel Staite’s small role as Margaret and she’s a standout. While some of the acting in the film leaves much to be desired, some is over the top and some is, sin of all sins, boring, it cannot be denied that everyone makes you emotionally react to their character. Shane Twerden as Jeremiah is a magnificent bastard. I have not hated a character this much in a long time.

Basically, we all know the story of a small town where a religious group rules by fear, but it’s the unflinching look at people’s actions that makes She Who Must Burn stick with you. After each person’s storyline is set up, the Baarkers then go about doling out their own personal form of justice on these perceived transgressions.

Make no mistake; this movie doesn’t even try to hide where it’s emotions fall on the abortion debate and the camera never looks away from some truly heartbreaking moments of violence. As each character pushes ahead to prove that they are the one doing the right thing, they all collide in one shocking scene. After what appears to be a small moment of divine intervention, we, along with the characters, are left to deal with the myriad feelings that have been brought up. The film’s chutzpah to challenge the viewer’s opinions, beliefs and personal morals more than makes up for any shortcomings in the script or acting. Certainly not a movie for everyone, it’s definitely thought provoking and proves that at the age of 79, Kent is still making films that push boundaries.

Lisa Fremont

Twitter: @lcfremont

Images: IMDb