Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Summer Lights Review: A Slice of Life That Slices A Little Too Narrow

Release date: August 6, 2021 (Streaming Premiere)
Running time: 83 minutes
Directed By: Jean-Gabriel Périot
Cast: Hiroto Ogi, Akane Tatsukawa, Yuzu Horie

On the Anniversary of the A-bomb comes this powerful drama from director Jean-Gabriel Périot. Akihiro, a native Japanese filmmaker living in Paris, comes to Hiroshima to interview survivors for a documentary marking the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing. Deeply moved by the interviews, he decided to take a break and wanders through the city during which he meets Michiko, a merry and enigmatic young woman. Michiko takes him for a joyful and improvised journey from the city towards the sea where the horrors of the past are mingled to the simplicity of the present. Thanks to her, Akihiro will escape from the darkness of the disaster and find a way to reach the simple lights of life. 

Summer Lights starts with a dramatic introduction as Akihiro interviews a survivor of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and the horrors of that experience.  The survivor does not mince words describing what occurred and it helps to frame the film on the destruction and devastation of that day.  And this discussion about destruction and the loss of life helps to ground the overall film, as the rest of it is a much more uplifting experience.  There is a great despair from the overall destruction and from Akihiro's lack of direction in life (despite being a director), but this is balanced by Michiko's vibrant optimism and trust in others.  She helps to show Akihiro around and introduce him to a part of himself that he is missing in his life in Paris.  And all of this is accompanied by some beautiful music that seems to blend Japanese instruments with more traditional European instruments; much like Akihiro is a blend of both cultures.

The film progresses as a delicate drama.  It is a beautiful slice of life that looks into how much impact a single day can have on a person.  And the film showcases plenty in that one day.  But despite the sweetness of the film and delivery by the main characters, there is just not much happening.  I appreciated what it was trying to show, but the movie really does feel like a normal day in the life of someone, without much excitement or intensity.  Maybe that is what the film was going for, but overall, it just felt like the movie was stuck in idle without much drive to move forward.  Much like Akihiro, the film just felt like it lacked rive.  I would have liked more development from Akihiro, who played a lot of passive observer, and an overall more poignant ending.  But if you are looking for a day in the life of Tokyo with some sympathetic and relatable characters, then Summer Lights might be for you.

Summer Lights is a delicate slice of life, an idyllic film with an emotional start; but one that doesn't quite pick up momentum throughout the relatively brief day.

Rent it.

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Summer Lights is available to stream starting August 6, 2021 via Film Movement PlusFilm Movement Plus

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