Evil Does Not Exist - Review (London Film Festival 2023)
Water Flows Downhill. 3 / 5
Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi.
Takumi and his daughter live in Mizubiki Village, close to Tokyo. One day, the village inhabitants become aware of a plan to build a glamping site near Takumi's house, offering city residents a comfortable escape to nature.
In 2021, Ryusuke Hamaguchi delivered the Oscar-winning Drive My Car (and lesser known Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy) which both released to critical acclaim, building intrigue for his next project. Evil Does Not Exist takes the best elements of Hamaguchi's tranquil directorial style and applies it to a much more intimate story.
This methodical drama shows a slower, gentle pace of life, taking time to be present in the vast wilderness of a small village on the outskirts of Tokyo. Extended sequences of walking through nature or daily tasks like wood chopping force the audience to be present. This ends up becoming the film's greatest strength and simultaneously its most notable weakness.
The pace immerses the audience in this sense of isolation, training us to Hamaguchi's rhythm. The contrast between the calm rural setting and the impending greed and ignorance of the urban way of life fight against each other, leading to a devastating yet inevitable final act. But the slow journey to get there doesn't feel as earned as it perhaps should - with an ambiguous stumble rather than an impactful landing. Beautifully transportive but left me wanting more.