Film Review: 'Digging for Fire' - A Search for Happiness


Jake Johnson and Rosemarie DeWitt in 'Digging For Fire.' Courtesy of The Orchard.

We meet Lee and Tim as they arrive at the beautiful house of her yoga client in Southern California. They struggle to hide their passive aggression towards each other from their young son, and despite the idyllic surroundings, Lee takes their son away for the night to visit her mother. Cue a divergence of interests as Tim bros out with his guy friends and Lee enjoys a night on the town. Do these two just need a night apart and some time to themselves, or is there something deeper going on between them?

Digging for Fire meanders along for 85 minutes with this question hanging in the cricket-filled air and while there is scope for a dramatic climax, it does not quite reach it. Instead, director Joe Swanberg places the focus firmly on the conversations between the various characters, played out in realistic terms with stilting ebbs and flows instead of something that feels pre-rehearsed. These touch with depth on various subjects such as mortality, the coming together of two lives in marriage and what that means for personal freedom and ultimately the life-changing event of having a child.

Rosemarie DeWitt is interesting, endearing and fun to watch as Lee, who is searching for the spiritual but has not quite let herself become fully immersed in her desires. On the flip side, Jake Johnson as her husband Tim is predictably lost and lugubrious, searching for something that he doesn’t even know he wants.


While the dialogue covers a breadth of interesting subject matter as Lee and Tim spend their evening apart, there are a lot of heavy-handed metaphors that prevent us from seeing the characters in as much depth as their discourse. Tim’s search for something becomes literal when he discovers a gun and a bone buried in the ground outside the house, and enlists the help of his friends to keep searching. Likewise, Lee’s inability to escape seeing a book about passion and marriage everywhere she turns simply ensures there can be no mistake about her desires.

With a supporting cast including Orlando Bloom, Jane Adams, Sam Elliott, Anna Kendrick, Mike Birbiglia and Brie Larson, there is potential for a very interesting character study. However, this film does not quite utilize the talents of these actors to the utmost, leaving the viewer wanting just that little bit more.

 Digging for Fire makes for easy watching. Its content caters for a cross section of viewers, with Tim and his friends drinking and messing about, and Lee finding the space to clear her head amidst strangers and wine. However it is slow moving and for those who like to have to dig for the moral of the story, this might not be the best choice.

Digging for Fire opens in San Francisco on Friday, August 28. 


Courtesy of The Orchard.