The Long Walk

The Long Walk

2022, NR, 115 min. Directed by Mattie Do. Starring Yannawoutthi Chanthalungsy, Noutnapha Soydara, Por Silatsa, Chanthamone Inoudome, Vilouna Phetmany, Vithaya Sombath.

REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., March 4, 2022

Beneath the canopy of a dense Laotian jungle, a young boy (Silatsa) discovers a dying girl (Soydara), bleeding out from bamboo impaled in her neck. The boy holds her hand in her final moments. But her death is not her end, as her spirit appears behind him. He has a gift, it seems, of seeing dead people. The dead girl has abilities of her own, the afterlife granting her the ability to travel through time. This fortuitous meeting sparks the first steps of a winding journey in The Long Walk.

This third feature from Laotian American filmmaker Mattie Do (Chanthaly, Dearest Sister) actually begins 50 years later. The boy is an old man (Chanthalungsy), still living in the rundown farmhouse of his youth. It’s an uneasy beginning, as the man is keeping another woman confined in a room. She is the local noodle shop owner, prone to bouts of dementia. When she dies, he buries her in the jungle where her spirit reappears, joining a number of other ghosts who linger in the shadows.

Returning to the past, the young boy helps his mother (Inoudome) sell the family’s produce at a dusty roadside stand. His mother’s coughing fits have increased, and it is becoming clear she is dying. With the aid of the time-travel spirit, the old man appears to his younger self. Can they help the mother, or perhaps usher her along to the spirit world to reunite her ghost with the son who has become at best a misguided angel of mercy, but is looking more and more like a mass murderer collecting a forest of souls?

One would think that a film concerning ghosts, time travel, and righting past wrongs would clearly lay out the rules, but Do and screenwriter Christopher Larsen are more interested in pastoral atmosphere than logic and with examining the emotional toll of regret, of mistakes, and how those things can follow you forever. As the old man alters the past, he invariably changes the future. And that changes him. This is the fascinating pretzel heart of The Long Walk, an elegiac mystery that coyly reveals just enough of its secrets to carry us along the path, but would have benefited from a few more shafts of light breaking through to that blood-soaked jungle floor.

Available on VOD now. Read our interview with director Mattie Do from The Long Walk's U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest, The Ghost of You, Sept. 20, 2019.

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The Long Walk, Mattie Do, Yannawoutthi Chanthalungsy, Noutnapha Soydara, Por Silatsa, Chanthamone Inoudome, Vilouna Phetmany, Vithaya Sombath

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