Wednesday, December 27, 2023



As he prepares to receive a literary award, children’s book author Antonio Alvaro (Dingdong Dantes) is grilled by an inquisitive journalist investigating claims of alleged plagiarism. To prove his innocence, he recounts his childhood as a scrawny kid everyone referred to as Tonton (Euwenn Mikaell), back when his world revolved around his grand auntie Linda (Cherry Pie Picache) and his mother Elay (Alessandra de Rossi) as well as her stories about a mystical island of fireflies. Forced to find the island on his own using her clues and a colorful map he himself drew, the young Tonton relies on the kindness of strangers along the way. Reluctant at first, ex-convict Louie (Epy Quizon), heartbroken teenager Billy (Miguel Tanfelix), and scammer Erika (Ysabel Ortega) all end up helping the young boy as he ventures out into the unknown to prove to everyone and to himself that the island does exist.

This movie made me cry. Twice. Not ugly crying but more on sniffles and a teardrop each. Considering only one other film has managed to make me cry in the last ten years, this says a lot. Either I am becoming a softie or maybe director Zig Dulay really just made an emotional film that is so damn good. While having an unlimited budget is desirable in crafting a cinematic masterpiece, sometimes all it takes is limitless imagination. Firefly transports us back to the carefree days of our childhood, a time in our lives when innocence and imagination served as barriers sheltering us from the very cruel world that we inhabit.

Our main takeaway from this is we perceive stories differently at different stages of our lives. Narratives focusing on children make you see them from a child’s perspective, by default, when you are young. As you get older, that shifts to an adult perspective. What makes Firefly so moving is how, as you get older, it seems to be an innate trait of our species to be naturally protective of the younger ones in the pack. Even though we are aware that those children will end up just as jaded as they eventually fall prey to the unavoidable trap of growing up, we want to delay that for them as much as we can; preserve that innocence, as long as we can.

This is probably the reason, too, as to how scenes so simply rendered can easily tug a heartstring. The beating around the bush, the euphemisms, the detours, the lengths we go through in order to break something serious and/or life-altering to a child in a way that it wouldn’t break them because we’ve been there before and we know how difficult it could be to process. In this regard, we have to give kudos to Mikaell for being a credible actor at such a young age. Dantes also offers a lot of feels despite his limited screen time.

As for symbolisms, the film does spell them out for you in the end, but it is fun to speculate while that information is still withheld from you. It is evident from the get go that Tonton is the firefly and Elay is the butterfly. The scary black dog following them around, I initially theorized to be death, which I later changed to the loss of will to live. The firefly’s light that it loses to give to the butterfly, on the contrary, could be hope or simply purpose in life. It can be interpreted in many different ways depending on your imagination and this ambiguity is just one of this film’s many charms.

Where they could have easily gone wrong was the CGI, but the sweeping panoramic views of the countryside are just so harmoniously juxtaposed to their imagined supernatural entities that they are so aesthetically pleasing to look at. While the black dog could’ve been polished more, it still serves as forgivable VFX, along with the pink butterfly and the firefly, to achieve their intended effect of subtle magical realism. After all, this is not a hardcore fantasy film and they are not there to impress, but rather to manifest concepts that are too magical for words, rendered through the eyes of a child.

1 creature(s) gave a damn:

Anonymous said...

I entered the theater with high hopes but left it feeling a bit impressed but also a bit bored. Yes for a local film it is way above average; the acting was solid mostly and the infusion of magical realism did not feel forced and was executed well. What was off for me was the predictability, the sluggish pace, the unrelenting melodrama, and the highly unrealistic situations and characters. I guess i should have checked my cynical self at the cinema door.

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