Brooke Guinan is a third-generation firefighter in New York City. But being the only trans woman in an overwhelmingly male department has not always been an easy ride. As she fights for greater representation in the firehouse, she also has to adjust to a new life with boyfriend Jim when the two decide to move in together. Woman on Fire captures the pride and pressures Brooke feels in a male-dominant workplace, as well as her decision to follow a family tradition.
Woman on Fire is a straightforward yet sensitive portrait of a courageous New Yorker. Julie Sokolow’s doc benefits from close access to Brooke, her parents Susan and George, and boyfriend Jim. All of them are open to reveal their hopes, biases, and anxieties. Even with some lovely moments to the camera, the film is heavy on talking head interviews. More scenes with Susan and George communicating with Brooke, showing how their actions reflects their words, could have been illuminating. Regardless, the film works because it focuses on the humanity of its subject and the people in her periphery.
Meanwhile, there is something progressive about a film with a trans subject that resists a focus on workplace harassment or homophobia. There are a few references to the abuses women and LGBT characters have suffered due to their roles as firefighters. However, these moments are demoted in favour of screen time promoting initiatives to unionize and broaden inclusivity among the FDNY.