Evil Does Not Exist

Evil Does Not Exist

2024, NR, 106 min. Directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi. Starring Hitoshi Omika, Ryô Nishikawa, Ryûji Kosaka, Ayaka Shibutani, Yoshinori Miyata, Taijirô Tamura.

REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., May 10, 2024

Winter is slowly receding in the small mountain village of Harasawa, a few hours north of Tokyo. The trees are still mostly bare, the forest floor crunches underfoot, but the skies are clear and the surrounding snow caps are melting, swelling the downhill rivulets. This water is gathered by the town’s self-described “jack of all trades” Takumi (Omika), for use in the local noodle shop. Takumi also spends a lot of time splitting up tree branches for firewood at home, where he lives with his 8-year-old daughter Hana (Nishikawa), and when he isn’t forgetting to pick her up from school, the two identify various tree types on their walks through the forest. A photograph at home shows there was a wife once, a mother not long absent, who we presume is deceased, for how else to explain Takumi’s unyielding stoicism with the world and his “chop wood, carry water” demeanor, or Hana’s wayward wanderings around Harasawa’s wilderness? There is a deep loss here.

For his follow-up to 2023’s accolade magnet Drive My Car, filmmaker Ryûsuke Hamaguchi has, not surprisingly, thrown a changeup with Evil Does Not Exist. Originally conceived as a 30-minute collaboration with musician Eiko Ishibashi – her music, his images – Hamaguchi has expanded the short film to feature length by weaving into this ethereal atmosphere the arrival of a Tokyo company that wishes to build a glamping retreat site in the village. The town meeting between the residents and the two company representatives is a riveting and satisfying takedown, one that leaves the glamping site (temporarily) stalled, but never underestimate the power of capitalism, especially when government subsidies are at stake. This theme of human encroachment on nature and finding a balance between the two is large enough to warrant using the prefix “eco” in describing Evil Does Not Exist,” but ultimately, Hamaguchi has more primal ideas in mind.

The film’s lingering shots of nature set to Ishibashi’s beautiful, often unnerving score (here forlorn, there uplifting) reinforce the idea of two converging forces, not necessarily in conflict, but independent nonetheless, the music imbuing emotional layers while maintaining its discreteness. Hamaguchi’s narrative, in turn, wanders between characters and storylines before joining them up for the film’s unsettling conclusion. But to its credit, the film never feels like a patchwork, but rather a cohesive whole. Or to be more specific: a haunting and meditative yet often hilarious cohesive whole.

Showtimes

Sun., May 26

digital 10:30

Wed., May 29

digital 10:40

Southwest Theaters at Lake Creek 7

13729 Research #1500, 512/291-3158, www.southwesttheaters.com

$6.50 children and senior tickets (all-day), $5 Tuesdays (all tickets), Bargain Matinees before 5pm daily.

Sun., May 26

digital 11:30am, 2:15, 4:50, 7:30, 10:05

Mon., May 27

digital 11:30am, 2:15, 4:50, 7:30, 10:05

Tue., May 28

digital 11:30am, 2:15, 4:50, 7:30, 10:05

Wed., May 29

digital 11:30am, 2:15, 4:50, 7:30, 10:05

Thu., May 30

digital 11:30am, 2:15, 4:50, 7:30, 10:05

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READ MORE
More Ryûsuke Hamaguchi Films
Drive My Car
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s second masterpiece in a year finds the pain of love

Jenny Nulf, Dec. 17, 2021

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy
Longing and loss explored in this stunning, tender anthology

Jenny Nulf, Oct. 29, 2021

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Feb. 2, 2024

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Evil Does Not Exist, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Hitoshi Omika, Ryô Nishikawa, Ryûji Kosaka, Ayaka Shibutani, Yoshinori Miyata, Taijirô Tamura

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