A House on Fire (2021)


A House on Fire Storyline

Deb Green’s house in Kansas City is on fire and her children burn alive in flames. Deb (Stephanie March) is outside on her knees and screaming for help. Detective Burnetta (Nicholas Treeshin) and Detective Smith (Gabriel Daniels) begin their investigation. Years earlier, a very belligerent hospital patient shoves a nurse against the wall. Only an intern, Debora Green’s quick thinking calms the situation. Deb is a doctor who scrapbooks. The page she is working on visualizes her future. Another intern named Mike Farrar (Shaun Benson) asks her to grab a cup of coffee. Dr. Jim Sturgeon (Erik Athavale) explains to Deb that Mike was flirting with her. Deb agrees to go out with Mike after he explains his diagnosis of a grade A wrist sprain by giving Mike her phone number on a card. Deb is competitive and takes him out on a run. Then they drink beers in the park while talking about their futures. Sometime later, Mike and Deb get married and appear to have a perfect life as they settle into their new home. As the years go by, the spark fades. They are both busy raising their kids, Tim (Connor Peterson) and Kelly (Isla Gorton). Six months before the fire, while rushing around the house, Deb trips and injures her wrist. She is late for a staff meeting, is behind in her case load, and has not yet passed her most recent medical board exam. A colleague prescribes her pain meds. Mike is up for a promotion to head of cardiology and is asked to a conference in Baltimore. Deb sees her dream house is for sale in Canterbury Court. The police investigators prompting the telling of Deb’s story finally asks her directly if she started the fire to her house. Deb gets passed up for her partner due to her lack of bedside manner and put on a “work from home” schedule doing peer reviews of colleagues and Medicaid claims. She gets addicted to the pain killers and starts prescribing them to herself. Mike’s boss, Doctor Joseph Barry (John B. Lowe) clues Mike in that colleagues have noticed this his wife is slurring her words and writing illegibly. That night, Deb catches Mike going through her things searching for drugs. Mike confronts Deb with the possibility of her drug use, but she steers the conversation to the in equity in the time each has to pursue their career goals because of the demands of their family life. That night, Mike meets Celeste Walker (Amy Groening), a female psychiatrist at a school function. Mike asks Celeste about mental health and work/life balance. Deb sees them talking and thinks he is flirting. Deb is insulted when Mike tries to offer her some of the tips Celeste gave him to help Deb. Mike and Celeste continue to meet and talk about Deb potentially be bipolar. Deb tells the police investigator that Celeste is a whore. Mike and Celeste start having an affair. Mike admits he was with Celeste Walker the night of the fire and that he is no longer in love with his wife. Deb is suspended from her hospital privileges for not passing the medical board exams. She does not reveal this to her husband. She goes home and rips of the photo of herself as a doctor that was in her scrapbook. Mike admits to the investigators that Deb was troubled with mood swings and depression. Deb tells the investigators emphatically that she is a good mother and that she loved her children. The next day, Mike asks to share a ride with Deb to work. She drops him off and conveniently forgets her purse in the car. She drives to her dream home and takes more pills. When Tim gets in a fight as school, Deb springs both Tim and Kelly for a day off from school to eat pizza and play catch in the park. Dr. Barry surprises Mike by telling him about Deb getting suspended from work. Mike goes home and searches for pills, finding them in the children’s toys. He declares that Deb an addict or has a mental health problem. Mike gives her an ultimatum. She either gets off the drugs and retires, or he will leave her. Deb declares she will be a great mom and flushes the pills down the toilet. Deb spirals into a deep depression and is sure that Mike and Celeste are having an affair. Mike takes his family to view a beautiful new house but has second thoughts which he confesses to Celeste when Deb refuses therapy and he feels his marriage is not on solid ground. Mike arrives home to find Deb and the realtor (Kristen Harris) writing up an initial offer on the new house. Mike and Deb fight in front of the kids and Deb takes her scrap book and cuts the photo of the house into pieces. Deb tells the investigators that the kids could not stand their dad, especially Tim. The next day when Deb is hurrying the kids out of the house, she gets a phone call from Hank Stapleton’s office seeking Dr. Mike Farrar. She finds in the yellow pages that Stapleton is a divorce attorney. Dr. Farrar gets a call at work that his house is on fire. The fireman on the scene declares that house probably was started by an old radiator. Deb and the kids arrive home as the house smolders. That night in the hotel room, Mike determines they should buy the house in Canterbury Court. Mike and Deb purchase the new house and Deb seems content when they settle in. Kelly comments to her father about her mother’s melancholy and desire to be alone. Tim is caught creating a Molotov cocktail with his friend Benny. The police investigator question whether Tim might be responsible for the fire, an allegation both parents believe is unthinkable. Mike confronts Deb about her depression in bed that night and Deb shuts him down. The next day she brings Mike a makeup lunch to his office and learns he is taking an extended lunch. Mike is indeed having an affair with Celeste. Deb sobs and drinks vodka in her car in the parking lot. Mike comes home and finds the kids fixing dinner and Deb sleeping off the vodka in bed. Deb has caught Mike having an affair. Deb drowns her sorrows with booze and turns the kids against Mike. Tim kicks his dad out of the house and punches him in the face when he demands Deb see a psychiatrist. Mike claims to the investigators that it was Deb who turned his children against him. At this point, the investigators request a sample of Deb and Mike’s hair as well as their clothes. Mike files for divorce. Deb meets with her own attorney. When Mike sits with the family at dinner his questions about their day are ignored. Mike is served leftovers because he does not like fried chicken. Mike gets ill sitting at his desk at work. Meanwhile, Deb is drinking heavily and furiously scrapbooking. She falls asleep that afternoon and forgets to pick up the kids. Tim and Kelly find their own way home. When Mike arrives frantically, Deb confirms to the children that Mike is having an affair. Mike and Deb have a heated argument and the police arrive. Mike has the intoxicated Deb taken away and put in a psychiatric hold. In her subsequent discussion with the psychiatrist Dr. Oliva Mertes (Stephanie Sy), Deb talks about getting close to her ideal life and how moving away from it is a very dark experience. She discusses how difficult it is being gifted and being understood. When the Dr. Mertes suggests she may have a mental illness and needs to get sober and take something to reconnect with her children, Deb is emphatic that she would do anything for her kids. Kelly plays a violin solo of “Amazing Grace” at her recital. When they return home, Deb, who has returned to the family, has prepared supper. All seems well until after the meal when Mike tells Deb that they still need a divorce. Suddenly Mike becomes deathly ill and passes out. Mike is admitted to the hospital. Deb calls to assure Mike that once he is well, they will sort things out. Deb has been poisoning him with castor beans. The police investigator presents Deb the evidence he found. When Deb leaves the kids in their beds to bring Mike some soup, she is enraged to see Celeste at Mike’s bedside. They scream at one another some more. Deb pleads for the survival of their marriage. Their relationship is volatile. Mike tells Deb that she is an erratic, manipulative liar that only cares about her status. Further, Mike tells Deb that he is going to take the kids when they divorce because he thinks she is certifiably crazy. Deb responds he will take the kids over cold dead bodies. Deb returns to her home and sits outside on the front porch. After downing some vodka, Deb destroys her visionary scrapbook and swallows a handful of the castor beans. Then she sets the house on fire with her kids inside. Kelly sleep but Tim awakens and call for his mother on the intercom with the hallway fully ablaze. Deb hears Tim’s call and tells him to wait in his room and she will return with some help. She sprints outside. The firemen arrive to fight the fire. Mike drives up in a taxi and fights his way past the firemen alerting them that there are children inside the burning house. Deb stands stone faced as Mike questions what she had done. Tim and Kelly do not make it out alive. In the questioning of the investigators, Deb knows that Tim and Kelly are deceased before the investigators have revealed that information. She recounts the evenings events for the investigators and excuses herself from further questioning. She wants to be referred to as Dr. Green as she tells the investigators that she only left her practice because she was coerced by her husband and would like to return in the field of psychiatry. Deb requests that she be the one to tell her husband about the death of their children. The investigators reveal to Mike that Kelly likely died of smoke inhalation. They ask Mike why Deb insisted to be the one to tell her husband about the children. Mike answered that there was a suggestion when their first house had a fire that Deb had started it, but he thought that was absurd. He said that the thing about Deb is that she is smarter than everyone else. After questioning Deb appears at Mike’s apartment telling him she had nowhere else to go. She tells Mike that he should have been home where he belonged. He gives her some cash and slams the door in her face. Deb is left with no one for the last act of her life. She is currently serving two concurrent 40-year sentences for the murder of her children but still proclaims her innocence.

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A House on Fire Movie Reviews

Mediocre movie and a bit frustrating at times

Stephanie March does a decent enough portrayal of a supposedly-brilliant woman descending into madness. However, she seems to be the only decent actor in this movie. The others have a high-school-quality, “Lifetime TV movie” feel to them. Well, this is a Lifetime movie after all; what do you expect? Also, her actions towards the end do not quite line up with her brilliance, so I am made to guess there is more to the story than what the movie is letting on. It feels very incomplete and I feel cheated at the end.

The Scrapbook

When Dr. Mike Farrar met Dr. Debra “Deb” Green, it was a relationship that seemed too good to be true. As it turned out, it was exactly that: too good to be true.

“Ann Rule’s A House on Fire” is a melodramatic domestic tragedy with overtones of another operatic burning house saga film: “Manchester By the Sea.” In this case, however, the film brings in overtones of the story of Medea who kills her children out of spite for her husband.

A central image for the film is the scrapbook kept by Deb that embodies all her hopes and dreams: job, house, kids. Unfortunately, in Deb’s twisted mind, she is using those objects for her own ego to cover her lifelong insecurity.

It stretched credibility to think that Mike would stick around for as long as he did as he witnessed his Deb’s monumental meltdown. He recognized her addiction, both to drugs and booze, but she also invested far too much personal significance in a house. The mansion at 2002 Canterbury Court was supposed to be her dream house. But for the poor children, it turned into a death trap due to Deb’s latest addiction: pyromania. The film made it absolutely clear that she wanted the children dead as payback to the father.

“A House on Fire” was not a great film. But it had enough of the same compelling power of personal suffering and the response of evil, as practiced by Medea: a gifted and brilliant woman who harnesses her magic powers in the wrong way. In the Greek legend of Medea as told by Euripides, Medea flies off in her chariot in the end after killing her babies. In the case of Deb Green, she will serve two consecutive 40-year prison sentences in which she may contemplate her scrapbook while wearing an orange jumpsuit.

VIEWS ON FILM review of A House on Fire

A House on Fire (my latest review) refers to an actual house gone a blazing. Who started it? I don’t quite know. Same goes for the movie in general. I don’t know what to make of “Fire”. It just lingers, it’s an experiment, and we the audience are frustrated by it.

So yeah, A House on Fire is like a Forensic Files episode stretched to ninety minutes. However, there’s no interviews, no creepy narrator voice, and we don’t see anything magnified under a microscope. DNA stuff? Well it never comes to fruition.

You wanna see Stephanie March give a raw performance in “Fire?” Well you’ll get it and it’s all good. You want to see a bunch of jumbled scenes that reek of discombobulation? Well you’ll get that too and it’s not all good.

“Fire” has no center, no reason to bounce off of. I can’t imagine what the Lifetime execs thought during the first screening. I mean how can you green-light a film that goes off on tangents while veering so far from the cinematic, beaten path? Heck, you can’t root for the husband and wife characters because they are both a little off in their Dr. Phil resolves.

Released in March of this year, harboring interrogation flashbacks, and filmed in Manitoba, Canada (hey it’s cheaper from a budget standpoint), A House on Fire is about a married doctor couple who are dysfunctional to the nth degree. They are in the amidst of a divorce, their house catches on fire, and they are both questioned after two of their children are burned to death.

What’s the overall motif of “Fire?” Um, I’m not sure. Both parents are messed up and both of these guardian weirdos need a swift kick in the behind. A House on Fire as a pic, needs to be on “house arrest”. Call the “where are they now” cast of Leave It to Beaver for reinforcements.