Riddle of Fire Film Review

Why I took it off the list:

I decided to take a gamble on this film without knowing much before going to see it at Barcelona’s Americana Film Festival.

All I knew was that it was about a group of roguish children going on some sort of adventure and that it was very stylish. Also, I’d heard positive things about it from friends who saw it at the 2023 Sitges Film Festival. So, let’s dig in!

Review of Riddle of Fire (2023)

Riddle of Fire comes across as a mumblecore version of The Goonies crossed with a Terence Malick film, in the best possible way. As you would imagine from that description, it features some precocious, strong-willed kids getting themselves mixed up in a fantastical adventure.

Not too fantastical, as it feels rooted in the real world, complete with dirt bikes and smartphones, but definitely filtered through a child-like viewpoint. Most of the comedy in the film comes from the central group of 3 kids brushing up against inconveniences that the world of adults intrudes upon them.

These include the inciting incident (and what gives the film its title); a parental control-lock screen on the TV that the kids must overcome to play a new video game console. Side note: they rather naughtily stole this from a warehouse, but I’ll gloss over that because the film pretty much does too!

This sets them off on a series of fetch-quests through their small town and the surrounding landscapes that see them end up even further away from their goals (and home) each time, and lands them in deeper trouble.

There’s never much sense that these kids are really in danger, although the low skates and the consistently light tone only add to the charm of the picture.

Beautiful to Look at and Endearingly Acted

There are also some suggestions of straight-up magic at play in Riddle of Fire that prove to be amusing, such as the fact the characters use a nonsense phrase to hypnotize others. And that the pastel-colored backgrounds are littered with bright red toadstools.

These pleasing mythical touches, the pristine locations, and the dreamy cinematography contribute to the overall fairy tale-like vibe of the film.

This extends to the trope-like treatment of the adult figures, including Lio Tipton (Golden Exits) as a very modern version of a storybook witch. Charles Halford (Bad Times at the El Royale) also makes a strong comedic impression as the troll-like cowboy John Redrye.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of Riddle of Fire, however, is the highly endearing performances from the 4 main young actors.

Though not polished by any means (which only adds to their charm in most cases), the youngsters do a great job at coming across as both precocious and naturalistic (particularly the talented one-to-watch Lorelei Mote (American Horror Stories) as Petal, pictured above).

Final score: 7/10

Riddle of Fire (2023): Worth Watching?

Yes, Riddle of Fire is a fun comedic adventure that feels like a throwback to kid flicks of the past in the best way possible.

Beautifully shot and endearingly performed, it’s a dreamy and entertaining modern fairy tale.

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