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  • Writer's pictureJamie

Evil Does Not Exist - Review

Even in the title of this film presents a moral dilemma, a philosophical question that has been posed before, does evil exist? I think the film’s title reveals itself in a mellow way, with a small story that comments on a bigger theme. Evil Does Not Exist is a meditative film, one that mostly worked for me in its slow approach to the questions it asks. I feel that the message, look and music of this film are strong enough to carry it through. Where it lacks slightly in story it makes up for in those technical achievements. It’s not my first slow burn story rodeo but I will admit that at times I felt the pace of it. 

Takumi (Hitoshi Omika) and his daughter, Hana (Ryô Nishikawa) live in Mizubiki Village, a community within travel distance to Tokyo. We join the story as the villagers hear of plans to build a glamping site near Takumi's house, bringing up questions of environmental responsibilities and corporate greed. The company proposing to build this glamping site have not thought through all elements of the project. The residents make that clear in a really well written scene showing the passion of the residents and the helpless coldness of Mayuzumi (Ayaka Shibutani) and Takahashi (Ryuji Kosaka). They have been sent by the company to talk to the residents, but they are not ultimately in charge of any decisions. 

We see them after the meeting chatting to one another about their hopes for life and we’re endeared to them as they want to hear out the villagers. 

They latch on to Takumi as he does a lot for the village. They shadow his day and find out more about their impact and the company's oversights while Hana takes her independence into her own hands. 

From what I could see, the conception of this film seemed to come from composer of this film, 

Eiko Ishibashi. Ishibashi and Hamaguchi worked together on 2021’s Drive My Car and this film was originally a piece to accompany Ishibashi’s score. It soon grew legs and ran to the grand jury prize at the Venice Film Festival. 

The pace of the film is pretty contentious among those who have seen the film, feeling conflicted on its justification. I think I land somewhere in the middle so I can have a global appeal and be overwhelmingly liked. I feel that in the setup of the film it sets the tone and pace of the film well, letting you sit with the characters in their actions. However there are some points deeper into the story that seem to be holding you from the plot, just for the sake of keeping the pace it has established. 

With the story being less prominent, I do think the technical elements become more of a focus, with the meditative and serine score playing during the film. It glides you through the runtime, even in the slower moments of the plot to keep you locked in. The camera work also aids this with its smooth movement and confidence in shot choice. There are some very very long shots in this film, some working for me more than others. One in particular that I loved was a conversation from the back of a car that stayed on it, knowing that the writing and performances were enough to make the scene effective and emotionally engaging. 

The writing of the film is a strong point for the film, with really smart dialogue. I wish there were more conversations in this, especially hearing the content of the ones we do get. 

The cast is small in the film but has a lot of power in it. First time actor Hitoshi Omika had originally worked as an assistant director with Hamaguchi. I think you can see this bond between the two with a trust put in Omika to embody the character and live in it. The rest of the cast are impressive, with both Shibutani and Kosaka standing out as the anchor points for the plot. 

If anything, this film has pushed me to watch Dive My Car, which has been on my list for a long time. With the glimpse into the conversational styles that Hamaguchi brings, I am impressed and excited to see more. Evil Does Not Exist is a good film that poses environmental and commercial questions to the audience with an ending to leave you really thinking about. I am finger upon chin, deep in contemplation about it and will return in seven business days with no answer, so I hope to find an “ending explained” video pop up online somewhere.


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