Socks On Fire

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Socks On Fire
"On its surface, it is slight - after all, this is a single family argument between a drag queen and the sister who disapproved of her brother's lifestyle - but McGuire is hunting for deeper resonances." | Photo: Blanton Boles

Documentaries don't come much more idiosyncratic than this feature debut from Bo McGuire. It's an intensely personal - though very watchable - deep dive into the ructions in his own family that were caused after his grandmother died, shot through with the sort of transgressive energy that John Waters made his stock-in-trade. Waters is a named touchstone in McGuire's statement for the film and there's plenty of his camp sensibilities on display as McGuire considers his own queer identity and the women that influenced him growing up at the same time as specifically interrogating what led his Aunt Sharon to become determined to kick his Uncle John out of the family home.

McGuire isn't afraid of using every technique in the book, from home video through to re-enactment and the documentation of the preparations for those re-enactments. This is a film that scrutinises and re-scrutinises ideas, searching for connections and influences, with McGuire himself, casually smoking a cigarette, wandering through its heart offering memoir-style observations and interrogations in his sweet Alabama drawl.

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On its surface, it is slight - after all, this is a single family argument between a drag queen and the sister who disapproved of her brother's lifestyle - but McGuire is hunting for deeper resonances. He succeeds in evoking ideas of memory - symbolised by a wood at the back of the family home - although sometimes his poetic musings, though pretty, don't quite have the substance to back them up. Specific moments of recollection crackle with life - like the time a Barbie doll was gifted at Christmas or Uncle John talking about his drag act and more from John - and the living, in general - would be welcome.

The playful elements, not least the fact that Aunt Sharon is played in re-enactments by a man (Chuck Duck) and a woman (Odessa Young) at various points, are shot through with something more melancholic but there's a warmth here, too, especially when McGuire gathers together women who have influenced him. Some of his scrutiny to Sharon drifts towards petty sniping and no matter how beautiful it looks, there's the sort of uneveness to the retelling that often comes with the deeply personal - but when McGuire digs down into the details his film holds surprising emotional heft.

Reviewed on: 14 May 2020
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Bo McGuire returns home to rural Alabama to document the bitter property feud between his homophobic aunt and gay uncle.

Director: Bo McGuire

Writer: Bo McGuire

Starring: Michael Patrick Nicholson, Carron Clark, Bo McGuire, Chuck Duck, Michael Patrick Nicholson, Carron Clark, Bo McGuire, Chuck Duck

Year: 2020

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

Tribeca 2020

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