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Review: ‘Firefly’ is a magical, tender tale of love and adventure worth watching

“Maria Clara at Ibarra” and “Black Rainbow” Director Zig Dulay has added another gem to his growing filmography as his new movie Firefly, an official entry to the 2023 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), is not only a love letter to our mothers and to all of the motherly figures that are part of our lives, but is also a testament to storytelling’s ultimate magic and wonders.

The story is about a 10-year-old boy, portrayed by the wonder kid Euwenn Mikaell, going on a quest to find a mythical island filled with fireflies, based on his mother’s bedtime story. At first, one may perceive the story as cliché due to its framing device of utilizing flashbacks of the older Tonton with a special participation of Dingdong Dantes and a media interviewer (Max Collins), who is adamant about figuring out the truth about the authenticity of Tonton’s stories, which is a National Book Prize recipient at the present. Nevertheless, as we continue watching, the movie shows Tonton’s childhood with his mother and his subsequent adventure, causing him to meet other people along the way, we now get to appreciate screenwriter Angeli Atienza’s straightforwardness and simplistic writing. All of the scenes stay connected and are essential to the whole story. It is sure of its objective and does not overcomplicate as it is fully committed to not straying away from its main conflict which is to find the magical island. The background of Tonton’s companions (starred by Miguel Tanfelix, Ysabel Ortega, and Epy Quizon) are all smoothly fleshed out during their journey, especially during the obstacles they encounter.

In effect, it is not your typical mother and son story as it is also a road trip, found the family story, which can be resemblant to the likes of acclaimed films “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006) and “Up” (2010) which guarantees that it will tug our heartstrings, especially in its climax and resolution. In addition, the writing also explores Filipino folklore, making us witness how stories are a source of enlightenment for us, individuals at a young age. Aside from being a form of escapism and comfort, stories narrated to us in our youth helped us develop and reflect on ourselves. Firefly’s cinematography and animation also added to the magical aspect of the plot as every frame looks like it came from a storybook. They picked the perfect setting for the story: the Bicol region due to its widely known vast mountains, plains, and bodies of water as well as its rich local folklore, particularly the famous story of Magayon, which is fittingly incorporated in the central plot. With this, alongside its energetic and nostalgic cover of Eraserheads’ song “Alapaap,” we are fully engrossed and truly convinced to join the character’s odyssey.

Acting-wise, Mikaell, as young as he is, has shown that he can level himself up with already established actors in the industry. He is a commanding force on screen, his innocence and charm captures the essence of Tonton who is a small boy but has big dreams for himself. Alessandra De Rossi, who plays in the film as Tonton’s mother, showed her acting prowess by flexing her versatility in her profession. She may have limited screen time but her character remains to be the heart and soul of the movie. Indeed, she is one of the leading actresses today as she has a knack for choosing great and successful projects: starred in various smash teleseryes and films, from legendary villain roles, indie ventures, then going to mainstream romance comedy, and now doing a heartfelt and memorable motherly role. Firefly is another award-winning movie in De Rossi’s already illustrious career.

Among the side characters, Quizon is the standout as he magnificently shows again the acting range he has in his arsenal. The difference from being an effective antagonist as a despicable and docile father in another recent drama “Dirty Linen” to now a loving and caring patriarch and father figure in this movie is clear proof of this.

Overall, ‘Firefly’ reminds us of our mothers being a shining, guiding light to us and how we are also a guiding light to other people, providing others the strength and courage they need to continue navigating through life. Although the lesson is mostly directed to the younger audiences, the young-at-heart, the adults will still absolutely enjoy the story. It is not surprising that it will leave you with puffy eyes as it can move everyone to tears as we reminisce the memories we have with our loved ones and are told that love remains stronger than our greatest fears. No doubt, the movie is rightfully deserving of the attention and awards it recently received.



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