"Substance of Fire is a touching human drama about an
obsessive man and his relationships with his family. Itís a
film that explores the human condition - state of mind,
acceptance of reality and coping with loss. Jon Robin
Baitzís screenplay is terrific and draws multi-faceted
characters, which spring to life. The performances are superb.
Ron Rifkin gives a heartbreaking performance as Isaac Geldhard:
here is a man who is obsessed with the past and the guilt he
carries. He canít move on and come to terms with accepting
reality. How painfully easy it is to take out lifeís
frustrations on the ones near and dear! Sarah Jessica Parker
gives one of her best performances to date; Timothy Hutton is
sensitive and understated. Substance of Fire richly explores
emotions that are very real, that, although not particularly
comfortable, allow us to connect and make us feel vulnerable.
Beyond the sadness and tragic undertow lies a beauty of spirit,
that makes this handsomely made film a memorable and moving
"As Louise says, Rifkinís performance is
heartbreaking, and the central plank in this filmís appeal.
It is not an easy film (to market) because for all its qualities,
it asks the audience to empathise with a sad situation; however,
it pays off by delivering an intelligent film filled with nuance
and emotion, successfully illuminating the specific conflicts of
the characters, while also exploring the universal human
condition. The production design is notable for its ability to
enhance the mood where itís needed, adding another layer to
the actorsí superb performances. It is character driven
cinema - not surprisingly, it is adapted from a play."
Andrew L. Urban
"A small film, one that is very much character-based,
Substance of Fire has astonishing power, due to a very literate
and intelligent script, and a remarkable performance by Ron
Rifkin as an autocrat using his past experiences as an excuse to
cut himself off from his children, all superlatively played by
Sarah Jessica Parker,Tony Goldwyn and Timothy Hutton. Based on
the stage play, this is an intimate and provocative drama, a
well-acted piece beautifully directed, with a haunting quality
that resonates after its conclusion. Though not an easy film, one
that deals with tough issues relating to family, Substance of
Fire is deserving of an audience. Intelligent, literate and
compelling dramas such as this, come along all too rarely."