Based on an article in the New York Times by A.G. Sulzberger, Kodachrome is a movie about death, family, and analog film — and the surprising overlap you can find between the three. When Matt (Jason Sudeikis) is contacted by his estranged father Ben (Ed Harris), who only has months to live, the two set out on a road trip to the last remaining Kodachrome film development lab before it closes its doors forever.
Ed Harris is fantastic as per usual, and Jason Sudeikis — who was absolutely electrifying in last year’s Colossal — hits it out of the park again, with a role that’s indistinguishable from your archetypal snarky white guy in a dramedy, right up until he blindsides you with something powerful and complex. Special mention should go to Elizabeth Olson, too. This might not be her movie, but she’s an absolute powerhouse here, bringing her best performance since Wind River.
I’ve seen the word predictable thrown around in discussions of this movie online. For what it’s worth, I don’t think predictability is ever inherently bad, nor is it something you should ever let dissuade you from enjoying a film — but if it’s really the sort of thing you can’t stand, then rest assured: Kodachrome hits the beats you’d expect, yes, but it hits them well. I reviewed Cargo last week, a film that’s remarkably upfront with how it’s going to end, and I think Kodachrome works in a similar way at times — but in neither case does this ever work to the film’s detriment. Even though you might expect a moment to come, it never seems to be exactly when or how you predicted. Which is clever, but even though it works well here, I don’t think this slight subversion of expectation is ever necessary to make a predictable movie good — and it’s certainly not the only thing that makes Kodachrome work. For me to call the movie’s final scene beat for beat before the halfway point and still cry as much I did represents some seriously smart filmmaking, and screenwriter Jonathan Tropper deserves credit for just how well Kodachrome works.
It feels apt that Kodachrome has so much to say about analog photography, records, and other mediums of the past — while it may have an international run in cinemas, the North American distribution rights for Kodachrome were bought up by Netflix. I’ve never understood the desire to preserve film as a medium, but sitting in a darkened theatre as the credits rolled, feeling vaguely sour that so many would first see this film on their laptop, I think something clicked for me. This has never been about how vivid film can look, or how warm records might sound. It’s about what these mediums mean to individuals, and what losing them might represent. As much as I enjoyed it, I know that Kodachrome is going to end up being the sort of movie you’ll find on Netflix in a year or two, and genuinely enjoy, but never seek out in cinemas — and I think that’s a damn shame. Wait a few months if you must, but I’d urge you to seek out showtimes. There’s so much to love here, and it’s only on the big screen once.
You can catch Kodachrome at Innaloo and Luna Cinema from today (Thursday 7th of June)