If you’re one of those angry hipsters who think the advent of digital media killed the authenticity of shooting on real film, then you’ll love this movie. Not only is the story’s plot driven by a love of the lost art of film photography, Kodachrome itself was filmed on Kodak 35mm film.
A dying father, Ben (Ed Harris), asks his estranged son, Matt (Jason Sudeikis), to accompany him on a road trip from New York to Kansas—to the only place in the world that still develops film in kodachrome. Ben is an esteemed photographer who is determined to develop his last four rolls before he dies, and before the store closes down. Matt reluctantly agrees, but the trip is filled with tension caused by his longstanding resentment towards his neglectful father.
Kodachrome is a family drama with a strong focus on the dichotomies of the old and new—like film and the digital—and what it means to be a good artist and a good person. One thing, however, seems to remain constant throughout: the road trip redemption genre.
I’m sure there’s a good reason that this genre has persisted. It could be the feel-good narrative arc that leaves us with a guaranteed feeling of satisfaction by the end; I was certainly feeling warm and fuzzy as I walked out of the cinema. Or maybe it’s the predictability of the genre: urban dweller haunted by their past gets back to the basics, finding peace on the open road while making a few detours along the way. Whatever the reason, I felt that Kodachrome lacked the edge to make it stand out in this longstanding genre.
I thought that edge might come from self-reflexivity, as, at one point during the beginning of the film, Matt exclaims, “This is not some redemption story!” Here we go, I thought, as I creepily grinned and rubbed my hands together. I waited eagerly for a moment in the plot that proved that statement right.Another interesting character in this film is Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen), Ben’s nurse and carer, who joins the father and son on their journey. She is the beacon of reason amid the constant bickering between the bitter pair. I do wonder, however, whether her character could have been given more depth. It often, and cringingly, seemed like her character functioned as nothing more than an emotional meditator for the male leads. At one point, we are given a bit of insight into her motivations and realise that, through trying to mend Matt and Ben’s relationship, she is also trying to find redemption for herself. For me, that moment was too brief and came too late.
All-in-all, Kodachrome is a solid and optimistic film. It is visually beautiful, and Harris gives an outstanding performance as the uncompromising and unapologetic artist. Kodachrome deals with the modern dilemma of film as a dying art, and the persisting dilemma of the family unit as a steady source of conflict and closure.
Kodachrome is at Luna Cinemas from June 7.