by Staff Writer Mingxin Wang
Little Fires Everywhere, adapted from Celeste Ng’s bestselling novel of the same name, is a thrilling miniseries with fiery discussions about privilege and race. Without sacrificing the novel’s originality, Little Fires Everywhere rekindles the same charm through heart-wrenching scenes and authentic performances.
Little Fires Everywhere takes place in Shaker Heights, an idyllic suburb ruled by Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon), whose guiding principle is following strict rules. Her picturesque lifestyle is upended when Mia Warren (Kerry Washington), a peripatetic artist with an enigmatic past, arrives in town with her teenage daughter, Pearl (Lexi Underwood). Their disregard for Elena’s carefully crafted status quo ultimately sparks a heart-wrenching discussion about class struggle and the nature of conformity.
Witherspoon and Washington are able to add their own flair to the screenplay, lending their characters some necessary depth and authenticity about the devastating consequences of withholding secrets and the impulsive nature of motherhood. Washington’s acting skill is repeatedly demonstrated through her interactions with Underwood, which escalate from tender moments to explosive fights without missing a beat. Moments like these emulate the smoldering prose and cadence from the novel. Her ability to portray Mia’s anguish and rage to protect Pearl from assimilating into the Richardson family completely transforms the show.
One of the series’ major successes is its cinematography, which uses a palette of crimson and orange hues to accentuate the characters’ fiery conflict. Subtle changes in lighting cultivate the burning resentment Elena and Mia feel towards each other. While the various microaggressions between Elena and Mia are amplified by their impeccable performances, it is ultimately the brilliant cinematography that elevates the series.
Instead of telling the story chronologically, Little Fires Everywhere slowly pieces together the storylines of each character, using ominous lighting and fast-paced cross cutting shots to create chilling flashbacks. Each memory fragment pulls the audience deeper into the intriguing story, creating the impression of an unassuming pile of embers that fans into an immense inferno as the finale approaches.
However, while Little Fires Everywhere skillfully executes each flashback, the rest of the series fails to find the same consistent pace, flickering from painfully lengthy expositions to a whirlwind of scenes that leaves viewers pausing and rewinding. Despite these minor flaws, though, the series still provides an incredibly insightful look into each character’s fragile identities.
Filled with tearful emotions and touching scenes, Little Fires Everywhere tells an engrossing story from the first episode to its very last. Tied together by powerful references to a society blind to privilege, extraordinary cinematography, and incredible performances, Little Fires Everywhere is a mesmerizing spark that grows brighter and brighter until the very end.