Fireflies On The Wall
Stars: Whitney Hamilton, Marcelle LeBlanc, Sean Patrick Harris, Alexandra Grossi, Virginia Newcomb, Blaine Burdette, Jay Galloway, Vinston T. Rickman and Tucker Meek
Director/Scriptwriter/Actor: Whitney Hamilton
Composer: Jimi Zhivago
Cinematography: William Schweikert
Bjornquist Films/Union Movie
Rating: PG 13 with battlefield violence
Running Length: 135 Minutes
The American Civil War contains enough material for hundreds of books and among them would be one or two about women who disguised themselves as men to serve either on the Union or Confederate side. “Union” is the story of the Confederate side and of military service, duty, love, family and courage. This is the story of Henry Kieler (played by director Whitney Hamilton) and how Henry came back to life during the War.
Henry Kieler dies and his sister (Whitney Hamilton) disguises herself as “Henry” and goes to war. The family property must be kept intact. During this time, “Henry” is shot in the chest and almost dies. “Henry” is rescued by a married woman, Virginia Klaising (Virginia Newcomb), also holding on to her property. “Henry” is taken to a Confederate military hospital and a nurse discovers “Henry” is actually a woman in disguise. The officer in charge is intrigued by this and wants more information, thinking she is a spy, while “Henry” plots an escape. Though still severely wounded, “Henry” travels to try to find help and Virginia. On the way, “Henry” is found by a Native American tribe who believe “Henry” is someone special and though out the film, come to “Henry’s” aid when needed. “Henry” stays with Virginia and she takes care of the gun wound, which is not healing well. They figure that if they “married” the neighbors would stop bothering her and she could keep her farm. This part of the film is beautifully done by Cinematographer William Schweikert with music by Jimi Zhivago. Schweikert’s photography, whether in battle or in a forest setting or close-up, is stunning. Especially during the wedding procession, ceremony and “Henry” capturing fireflies to light the inside of the cabin at night.
There are three stories going on in “Union.” It is not easy to be born a woman in these times. One story is “Henry” trying to find Virginia, another is Virginia trying to hold on to her farm as her husband is seriously ill, and the third is “Henry” trying to find a lost boy who “Henry” had befriended. The stories are separated by Native American dialogue (spoken by Vinston T. Rickman). “Union” could have been a television series for all of the story parts and battle actions involved. Each time “Henry” goes into another situation pretending to be a man (will that moustache stay in place?) there are actors who comprise the situations well. Note, slavery is not a part of these situations.
The stories of commitment to family, how women’s rights are almost non-existent, the brutality of war for either side and enduring friendship are told here. Acting is good, with Whitney Hamilton as a believable “Henry” in disguise and Virginia Newcomb as the both tough and tender, Virginia. Her scenes, as she plays a piano (surely a luxury at that time) in her house, are delicate and well-wrought. Both women are good shots with guns and have to be, in this war zone. Tucker Meek, who plays the lost boy, Harrison, is a capable actor. Alexandra Grossi and Marcelle LeBlanc, also do well. Plus, the scenery, war episodes, evening candlelight and horse rides all add much to the film. So, in the end, “Union” tells an unusual story of trying to live peacefully within a war climate, where love is a luxury to be hidden and always being on guard becomes a way of life. There is much going on in “Union” and, pay attention so you don’t miss anything.
Copyright 2020 Marie Asner