‘Fireworks’ (2023) Review: A Well-done Indonesian Remake With A Good Message

If someone suicidal had a second chance to step away from their impending actions, would they change their mind? Fireworks or Kembang Api begs the same question. Adapted from the Japanese film 3ft Ball And Soul (2017), Fireworks follows four people who find each other in a group chat. The group chat is essentially a suicide club, and the movie begins when the four of them decide to meet up to commit group suicide. The movie is called Fireworks because the method of suicide is by detonating a large firework “bomb” created by one of the four participants. Of course, there’s an underlying message, but without giving any spoilers, we can look at it this way: The majority of the film takes place in a claustrophobic, confined place where the protagonists gather to commit their grand act. It creates a sense of urgency and makes one question the motives of all the characters. A lot of the acting plays out like a live play, which helps in the case of a film that can’t rely on beautiful scenery, great cinematography, or any of those other things that make a movie fantastic. Fireworks relies heavily on the acting skills of all the actors, and for the most part, they do a decent job with what they have.

When the four don’t die after detonating the bomb, things take a strange turn for them. They get stuck in a time loop. This is when things get tricky for the viewer. When stuck in a time loop, a lot of time is used up establishing that each character is experiencing something repetitively, and this makes the movie feel a little dragged out and also slightly boring. Personally, I was losing patience, and it’s rather obvious what the message of the story is, so knowing where it was going, I could’ve easily skipped to the end of the movie to know if I was right. Spoiler alert: I would’ve learned that I was. Additionally, the sensitive topics of mental health and suicide are difficult subjects to address, and for the most part, the director and writers do a good job of making sure they handle them well. My qualm is that the film has a very one-directional plot that does not show you both sides of a coin but just gives the morally right answer. Personally, I felt like this came across as a little bit compassionless. While I do understand that there’s a strong message behind the entire movie, I found it less effective emotionally for this reason.

The ball they are set to detonate ironically has the words “life must light up” written on it. This is the main premise of the story: to give yourself more chances and find a way to fight difficult situations because everyone else is having it just as bad. Or that’s what I can take away from it. We have a middle-aged man in debt, a high school student, a grieving mother, and a stressed-out young doctor in this group. They all come from different backgrounds, and each has their own problems. All of this plays out well and makes sense as things slowly get revealed throughout the film, but having to hear certain things again and again makes it a little tedious. Additionally, even if the scenes had to play out again, there are certain words and dialogues that get said two or three times for emphasis or humor that didn’t work for me. This may be a case of “lost in translation” or bad subtitles too, though. To be fair, amongst the myriad Indonesian horror movies I’ve watched in the past month or so, this movie comes as a breath of fresh air, even with its morbid atmosphere. I can appreciate that, apart from having the fantastic element of a time loop, the movie takes a very realistic approach to the subject, making it feel somehow relatable to most people. I’m reminded of a book I read as a teenager, “Before I Fall,” which also puts a girl’s death day into a time loop like this one. But the big difference is that she didn’t choose to die.

As the movie doesn’t have much to offer visually, a lot relies on the dialogue, acting, and sound. While two of those things are good, some additional emphasis on the dialogue and script may have tied it up neatly. I definitely appreciate the effort, though, and am looking forward to more serious Indonesian movies such as this one in the future. Additionally, I’m interested in looking into more work by director Herwin Novianto.

Overall, if you’re able to sit through the first half of the film, where things feel a little monotonous, better things await. The movie is family appropriate with no profanity, nudity, or violence. The film doesn’t weigh problems against each other and gives equal importance to all, meaning everyone is equal when it comes to life and death. We value the lives of others much more than we do our own. Fireworks pushes for one to learn to value themselves. While the story lacks originality, it proves that something doesn’t have to be new for it to be effective. I think this movie has the ability to have a different effect on different people based on their own experiences, and that’s a good enough reason to watch it. It’s a movie that might get you thinking, or it might make you rethink your problems, ideas, and thoughts on life. If this is something you’re interested in, give Fireworks a try. I give Fireworks three out of five stars. Considering the deep message of this film, it does feel a little bit strange to give it a score.

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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As the movie doesn't have much to offer visually, a lot relies on the dialogue, acting, and sound. While two of those things are good, some additional emphasis on the dialogue and script may have tied it up neatly.'Fireworks' (2023) Review: A Well-done Indonesian Remake With A Good Message