The Importance of Connections in Ryusuke Hamaguchi Films | Features

Little profound human interaction exists in “Evil Does Not Exist,” to the point where, more often than not, nature sets itself up as our primary point of view. From the name alone, we expect the worst: the film delivers tense dissonance with its vibrant blue skies, blood dripping on leaves, and casual gunshots in the background, refusing to let audiences forget the unsettling cadence the story strikes. In an early, pivotal moment, our characters stumble upon the bones of a dead and gutshot fawn — a victim with unsteady legs not yet fully grown, sinking us further under the weight of dread. While Hamaguchi operates in communal spaces, his latest begs the question of what it takes to strip us of our humanity. How much must we suffer before surrendering to the natural instinct to raise our hackles and bare our teeth? 

In most of his films, we watch characters transform and grow through the influence of others. “Evil Does Not Exist” plays on this through Takahashi (Ryuji Kosaka), a representative of the encroaching glamping company, as he latches onto Takumi’s (Hitoshi Omika) bucolic lifestyle in a naive and parasitic manner. But it doesn’t take. Instead, the Mizubiki residents are distrustful and wary of any outsiders, rightfully reluctant to change. There’s a profound, effective chilliness in the film that is so far removed from most of his work. While Hamaguchi’s other films certainly play with tone, none are quite so consumed by the frigid nature of his latest. 

The chill that touches his past works comes through in his characters’ relationships. Mutual isolation and grief bonds Yūsuke and Misaki in “Drive My Car.” Asako runs away with Baku (Masahiro Higashide) in “Asako I & II.” In the first of three vignettes in “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy,” a young woman deliberately tries to upset a new relationship. In the second, an unexpected attempt at connection implodes. Yet despite all those dire moments where characters self-destruct and find themselves embattled by their worst instincts, there are moments of startling warmth and friendship that balance the scales. Human nature is messy, Hamaguchi understands this. And it’s through the emotional turmoil of characters, often quiet, that he finds where we connect.