Dreams on Fire is the story of Yume, a girl living in Tokyo who attempts to escape her life to become a dancer. Along the way she finds herself facing harsh realities and the seedy life of Japan’s red-light district. But her passion for the art and skills to learn keep her pushing forward. And the rest plays out fairly similarly to the likes of Coyote Ugly and those Step Up films.
Well, comparing it to those films may be a little insincere, as it is a step-up (no pun intended) from those films. Especially in it’s visuals. Dreams on Fire has some spectacular dance sequences. The opening alone was an assault on the senses, with a cirque-du-soleil-esc dance of vibrant reds and glittered make-up.
The lead character being played by professional dancer Bambi Naka, in what is her first leading role in a film, it is expected that the dance scenes will stand out. There is fantastic choreography, all perfectly timed to the music. It is strange that acting is judged by how actors can speak their lines and how they can loose weight or gain muscle for a role, when dancing, stunts and fight choreography is harder to do, is more demanding and still requires them to read their lines.
In this regard, Bambi Naka does a great job. She proves herself to be a good character actress, while also doing impressive dance moves that most can only dream of doing.
Story wise, Dreams on Fire is well told. As the title suggests, it is a bittersweet film. At times uplifting, while other times it is hard hitting. It never goes too far with either, for better and worse, but on the whole it does feel very satisfying. While it should surprise nobody that it has very heavy moments, it is all handled effectively and realistically. We get a character with a dream, and we follow that dream as realistically as any film could present it. None of this straight line to fame.
None of this waiting for the right moment. Not even finding someone who proves to be more important than the dream. The kind of thing you would see from Disney. This is a character who has to balance a job, or multiple jobs, with her homelife and ambitions. An sometimes, work simply had to win out to afford the necessities of life. We have all been down this road, likely many are still on this road.
Praise must be given to director Philippe McKie, for who Dreams on Fire is the feature debut of. He has a keen eye for visuals and an ear for sound. The film is fitted together brilliantly and demonstrates a focused and distinct vision. Both McKie and Naka are what makes Dreams on Fire work. A surprisingly hard hitting coming of age drama is given more life thanks to them. It is most certainly worth the watch. It could be considered a little long at just over two-hours, but what is there is certainly worth it.
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