Directed by Neo Bryce Largo
Starring Isaiah Bontia, Kimberly Mar Barcena, Jolas Efraim Estoquia
Short Film Review by Evie Brudenall
The formative teenage years in our lives are often daunting and complex and require thoughtful navigation, a theme that The Missing Fireworks attempts to implement.
Harry (Isaiah Bontia) has been with his girlfriend Angela (Kimberly Mar Barcena) for one year. But they have yet to kiss and Harry is feeling the pressure to lock in his first snog. With his expectations sky high, can Harry’s first kiss fulfil his wildest dreams?
“Have you been kissed on the lips?” a voice off-camera asks. A cohort of nervous teenagers, interviewed individually, giggle and verbally stumble through their answers. They are then asked about the experience of their first kiss and the answers range from adorable to comically candid. However, their responses are unified in the sense that all of their experiences were wonderful and affirmative, reinforcing the “first kiss” as a momentous rite of passage. When one young man is asked what his first kiss felt like, he replies simply with “fireworks”. The video is paused and Harry, from behind his laptop screen, appears dejected and wistful for something he has never accomplished.
Harry then sets off on a mission to seal his first smooch but it’s definitely not smooth sailing. He starts to feel “The Pressure” (Chapter 1 of Harry’s journey), most notably from his best pal G (Jolas Efraim Estoquia) who labels Harry a “loser” and “stupid”, effectively approaching the sensitive subject with a “man-up” attitude. The dialogue in these interactions may be heavy-handed and a jilted exchange but the message it contains is pertinent and speaks to the scrutiny that teenagers feel to show signs of maturity and growing up in fear of being judged by their peers. In an effort to impress his girlfriend, Angela, and improve his technique, Harry begins to study and practice the art of kissing, like a boxer preparing for the fight of his life. The internet is Harry’s primary source and the sequence of him getting amorous with his pillow is amusing but could have been exploited further to reach heights of hilarity.
Writer and director Neo Bryce Largo positions Harry as a likable protagonist and we’re successfully made to feel as anxious with anticipation as he does as he readies himself for his first kiss with Angela. When the moment he has been waiting for finally arrives, Harry is bitterly disappointed as there is barely a fizzle, let alone a full fireworks display. G tries to convince him that he is chasing a mythical, unrealistic concept but Harry remains hopeful that one day a spark will be ignited. G’s outlook on the crucial first kiss is the complete antithesis of what Harry believes, and whilst the characters are typical and archetypal, they raise interesting arguments and thoughts surrounding the expectations of first kisses.
Packed with wonderful ideas, The Missing Fireworks sadly misses a few itself as its on-the-nose writing stops sparks flying in this sweet and well-intentioned tale.