Editor’s note: We reviewed “The Firefly” last year, and now it’s finally available on Netflix! Below is the full review and trailer, and HERE is a link to stream the film.
“The Firefly” is a Sweet, Sapphic Love Story Sparked by Grief
Have you ever seen an improbable scenario executed so effectively onscreen that you can’t help but suspend your disbelief in order to feel as happy as those characters feel? It happens, but less so in the world of lesbian cinema. And that’s just one of the reasons why the Colombian film The Firefly (La Luciérnaga) is such a delight.
In a nutshell, The Firefly is about gaining something beautiful in the midst of losing something precious. While this is hardly a new concept, you’ll struggle to find an original storyline such as this one that also features two women falling in love. Especially one that, against all odds, works.
As the film begins, we’re greeted with stunning shots of the streets of Bogota before meeting our equally striking protagonist, Lucia (Carolina Guerra), who is also our on-again, off-again narrator. We quickly discover that all is not right with Lucia. You see, her relatively quiet life with her suit of a husband, Adrian, has just been disrupted by the sudden death of her estranged brother, Andres.
Andres died in a car accident on his way to pick up Lucia to attend his wedding. He had called her the night before, but she didn’t answer. As a last ditch effort, he decided to go to her and convince her to attend the wedding she didn’t even know was happening. With his death, Lucia’s world is shaken. But so too is his fiancée’s, Mariana (Olga Segura).
Mariana absolutely loved Andres. He was her best friend and she just has no idea what to do next. Her first move is to lie and tell her mom she’s flying to Mexico when in reality she’s staying in Andres’ apartment. And it’s there Lucia meets her for the first time. It’s a shock first encounter for both of them, to say the least.
The two make quite a pair, Mariana still in her wedding dress and Lucia in her brother’s bike gloves, hat and leather jacket. Immediately, Lucia’s instincts tell her to comfort Mariana, and Mariana’s tell her to trust Lucia. Their love for and grief over Andres joins them and they quickly become close friends.
Despite sleeping in bed together for days, getting to the more physical side of the women’s intimacy is a long-drawn-out process, but the signs are there early on. We see that with Lucia when she helps Mariana get out of her wedding dress during a panic attack. She can’t help but stare a little too intensely. A similar experience occurs for Mariana when she spots Lucia showering. She stares for longer, though, looking a bit more aware.
But what both of these women need at the moment is closure. For Lucia, that’s more complex. She’s dealing with a lot of guilt because she hadn’t seen her brother for a few years before his death. She never forgave him for how he handled their father’s death, which is a lot like how she’s handling his death now.
However, eventually Lucia and Mariana have to face the real world. After all, Lucia is married and lives with her husband. Not that she ever mentioned him in all the time she spent with Mariana. And Mariana says as much while out to dinner with the couple, calling Lucia out on that and asking her why she’s even married to a man as distant as Adrian. When Lucia doesn’t have a good answer for her, she reminds her that life is too short for “complicated.” And she would’ve closed her case with a kiss if it weren’t for a bathroom visitor with poor sense of timing!
Speaking of bad timing, dummy husband decides now is an okay time to go away on a business trip. Clueless, he points out that Lucia has Mariana. He’s right–she does. What he does next I’d like to thank him for: he switches around some special reservations to allow Lucia and Mariana to have a weekend getaway together.
After some easy convincing and an amusing road trip, the two women arrive at the resort late at night. Of course, those are obviously the ideal conditions for a private swim. What starts off as fun soon becomes romantic after the two exchange some sweet kisses and hugs. And then Mariana goes in for a kiss. And then another one. Lucia is dazed, but snaps out of it by the time they make it to bed for what I have to say is one of the most beautifully put together love scenes I’ve seen in a while.
But where can they go from here? Remember, Lucia is married. And even if that wasn’t the case, the circumstances around this newfound love, that of grieving the death of the same man, make this situation more than the kind of “complicated” that can simply be explained away. Right?
The Firefly is full of pleasant surprises, not the least of which is choosing to not have its lead characters freak out over their newly discovered sexuality. It’s also a very sweet, even funny at times, film, this despite the recurring theme of grief. And yet that’s handled interestingly as well, with the movie using gothic and magic realism to heighten Lucia’s sense of loss. Indeed, brilliantly shot and smartly edited, The Firefly is a feature debut writer/director/producer Ana Maria Hermida can be proud of.