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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

River's Edge (リバーズエッジ) - 2018 NYAFF Review

The Movie: River's Edge (リバーズエッジ)

The Director: Yukisada Isao

The Cast: Nikaidô Fumi, Yoshizawa Ryô, Morikawa Aoi, Uesugi Shûhei, Sumire, Doi Shiori

The Story: A group of teenagers experience the emotional roller coaster that is high school and a series of bizarre and extreme events have each of them questioning their existence and contemplating what it means to be alive.

The Review:
When I started watching this movie, I found it to be a bit perplexing and it seemed so random and all over the place but then, all of a sudden, I realized it had drawn me in by expertly weaving together  several character threads that were enhanced by some very strong performances. As the story progressed, there were a lot of emotional touch stones and the third act kicked into high gear with some really shocking and, at times, disturbing moments. The story has a very interesting quality that hints at the possibility of aliens and ghosts, references them in random bits of folk lore filled exposition, but never goes all in with any of it. Oddly enough, this was perfectly okay because it helped the believability of the more outlandish moments of the movie and added layers of depth that turned out to be very useful.

As I mentioned earlier, the performances by several cast members are what really sells the entire story is you really feel the raw emotions and struggles of the teenage characters. There are a few scenes interjected into the story where particular characters are being interviewed in a documentary fashion and those moments are where the actors really shine, especially Fumi Nikaidô as the emotionally blank Haruna Wakakusa and Sumire who plays Kozue Yoshikawa a jaded actress who is obsessed with food and hates her own self image. These interviews are shot in long takes which allow the actors to dig into some serious emotional depths that come across just as much on their faces as in the words they are saying. These were quite honestly some of my favorite moments of the movie.

The Verdict:
River's Edge is an emotionally draining drama filled with twists and turns and you never know what is going to happen next. Veteran director Yukisada Isao has created one of the most interesting and intriguing looks into high school life that I have ever seen.

River's Edge is an official selection of the 2018 New York Asian Film Festival.

TwoOhSix.com coverage of NYAFF 2018.

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