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Film Review: ALL THE FIRES: A Young Pyromaniac Searches for Meaning in Life in an Interesting Drama [Locarno 2023]

Sebastian Rojano All The Fires

All the Fires Review

All the Fires / Todos los incendios (2023) Film Review from the 76th Annual Locarno Film Festival, a movie written and directed by Mauricio Calderon Rico and starring Sebastian Rojano, Ximena Ayala, Ari Lopez, Hector Illanes, Natalia Quiroz, Antonio Fortier, Iliana Donatlan and Hannah Romen.

All the Fires, directed by Mauricio Calderon Rico is a Spanish language drama which serves a character study of a mixed up young man trying to find his place in the world. While the movie meanders a bit, it is essentially a story of the boy’s coming-of-age in a world where nothing turns out as he would expect it to. Rico’s direction is pretty much always on-point as the filmmaker takes the audience on a journey right along with the central character where lessons are learned and discoveries are made.

This film showcases the story of a young man named Bruno (Sebastian Rojano) who is a pyromaniac who misses his deceased father and wants to find a life for himself. This all seems possible when a girl he’s talking to online, Daniela (Natalia Quiroz) indirectly sets him off on a quest for happiness when he becomes upset about his mother, Ines (Ximena Ayala)’s involvement with another man, Gerardo (Hector Illanes).

All the Fires is a fascinating story that captures the viewer’s attention in many ways early on. One can wonder why Bruno feels the need to set fires and why he creates videos online that demonstrate such abilities. However, as the plot moves forth, we understand the character of Bruno a bit more. He wants to be heard in a world where others seem to dictate what he should and shouldn’t do.

One of the film’s best and most layered characters is that of Bruno’s sensitive friend, Ian (Ari Lopez). Ian seems to be gay and he has a true understanding of Bruno’s complex wishes to fit in and find a life which completes his unusual need to set fires at any given time. Ian is always there for Bruno as Bruno keeps moving forward trying to find a better life for himself. Perhaps, Bruno’s life wasn’t as bad as he thought it was. Or could it improve significantly by meeting the girl from the internet who he has been talking to?

When Bruno meets the girl from the internet, the two seem to get along OK. She looks a bit different from her online persona and, to her, he seems to look a bit older than his. One of the most effective scenes is when the two characters meet for the first time because the awkwardness of everyday life is perfectly captured by the director.

Two of this movie’s best performances are from Ximena Ayala and Hector Illanes as the couple who try to keep Bruno focused on what is important in life. Bruno, however, sees Gerardo as a threat. Bruno starts to believe his mother had the affair with Gerardo while Bruno’s father was still alive which angers Bruno. Ayala plays the concerned mother to perfection, revealing many different emotions which are all portrayed in a believable fashion. Illanes’s character is good-natured at times but he also has to be strong for Bruno because Bruno will not learn anything if Ines and Gerardo just let him keep setting fires anytime he desires. Illanes is excellent in a role with plenty of depth to it. The scenes between him and Rojano are terrific and show the bond between these two characters that ultimately develops.

Rojano plays Bruno in such a way that one can understand him but one never truly grasps the reasons he does what he does regarding the fires he sets. It seems like acting out is the only way he can express himself. The movie could have used a little more character development. Rojano gets inside the character’s mind effectively, though, and his performance is effortless and powerful.

There are some loose ends that All the Fires leaves behind for the audience. Though Bruno learns about his true sexuality and comes to many realizations, the audience could feel there was more to explore with this character than the film actually takes on. However, the scenes that the audience gets to experience throughout the movie give it an emotional edge which carries it through some minor slumps. Overall, All the Fires is a satisfying study of a young man who wouldn’t have learned anything about himself if he didn’t burn things around him. Bruno possesses tremendous sensitivity which is well portrayed on screen by Rojano and the film is ultimately a good one.

Rating: 7/10

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