Metro Weekly

‘Fireworks’ is a Story of Young Love Crushed by Intolerance

The heartrending "Fireworks" captures the innocent joy of two gay teens in love, and the hate and harassment that follow.

Fireworks: Samuele Segreto and Gabriele Pizzurro -- Photo: Stranizza D'Amuri
Fireworks: Gabriele Pizzurro and Samuele Segreto — Photo: Stranizza D’Amuri

Friendship blossoms before attraction for Sicilian teens Nino and Gianni in Giuseppe Fiorello’s sensitive, ultimately tragic romance, Fireworks. The boys spark a bond from the moment their mopeds collide on a forked road winding through the rocky countryside.

Mop-haired 16-year-old Nino (Gabriele Pizzurro) is out joyriding on the scooter his parents just bought him, while slightly older Gianni (Samuele Segreto) is racing to escape two of the tormentors who refuse to let him be.

Set during the summer of 1982, with the entire country entranced by the Italian national football team’s progress through the World Cup, the film marvelously conveys a sense of time and place.

Picture it: small-town Sicily before Italy’s gay rights movement had truly crystallized. Everything appears to be baking in the sun — the brush-covered coastline, the olive trees, the men in their tight tanks and jeans.

And in his small town, shy garage mechanic Gianni has been branded a “certified f****t” by macho village idiots with nothing better to do than loll about all day in front of the café bar on the corner, when they’re not watching the World Cup or attacking Gianni.

Stoically, he walks alone in his torment, save for the caring attention of his mother (Simona Malato). Although she’s more concerned about keeping her man Franco (Enrico Roccaforte) happy, than shielding her son from being beaten up and chased through the streets.

Fireworks: Gabriele Pizzurro and Samuele Segreto — Photo: Stranizza D’Amuri

So Gianni finds much-needed refuge in his friendship with Nino, a gregarious, more or less well-adjusted kid who works helping his dad (Antonio De Matteo) produce fireworks at fairs around the region. Nino’s family embraces Gianni in a way that the fatherless loner has never felt — until the boys are spotted in an intimate moment, gossip spreads that reaches both boys’ families, and the real fireworks ignite.

Reactions to the budding romance range from explosively histrionic to coolly, cruelly disapproving, with director Fiorello allowing some in his cast to fly far over the top portraying anti-gay outrage. Malato, as Gianni’s meddling mom, particularly dials up the overheated melodrama.

Then again, it’s helpful to remember that too often in real life, queer kids are met with exactly such vicious or unhinged reactions from ones who claim to love them unconditionally.

Fortunately, the film conveys its love story more delicately, yet still forcefully, led by Pizzurro’s natural performance as the smiling, lovestruck Nino. Building on his sparkling chemistry with Segreto as ruggedly handsome Gianni, Pizzurro assuredly traces Nino’s journey from learning firsthand how aggressively Gianni is bullied by the jerks in town, to the pair’s first kiss, to the heartbreak of being forced to denounce their relationship under threat of more than just bodily harm.

Fiorello, co-writing with Andrea Cedrola, based the film on the shocking real-life anti-gay incident that galvanized Italy’s nascent LGBTQ rights movement. Dedicating Fireworks to Giorgio Agatino Giammona and Antonio Galatola, “the boyfriends” whose murders in 1980 opened the nation’s eyes to homophobia and anti-gay violence, the filmmaker presents a stirring tribute to their memory.

Fireworks: Antonio de Matteo and Gabriele Pizzurro — Photo: Stranizza D’Amuri

Fireworks also offers a well-wrought story of love crushed by intolerance, hampered occasionally by overwrought acting. The film ably captures the small, significant details that define the boys’ humanity, their innocence, their right to live and not be attacked for who they are, or who they love.

And with profound compassion, and a minimum of onscreen violence, it depicts the lack of humanity shown by family and community who, instead of turning on Nino and Gianni, could just as easily nurture and protect them.

Fireworks (★★★☆☆) is available to stream through VOD on most platforms, and available for purchase on DVD and Blu-Ray at Amazon, Kino Lorber, and Visit

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