VIFF 2016: The Lockpicker (Randall Okita, 2016)

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The promise of summer comes early in The Lockpicker in the form of a sailing trip, a post-diploma work opportunity that doubles, more importantly, as a dream of warmth and far-flung travels, a balm for the bleakness of winter. And Hashi could clearly use a lodestar to navigate his way through his final months of high school, which find him in an unsustainable cycle of drugs and outbursts. As conceived by director Randall Okita and played by Keigian Umi Tang, Hashi embodies a familiar vision of teenage masculinity: haunted, but sensitive, confrontational at times, but more out of hurt than genuine ill-will.

Okita’s film charts the teenage mind’s limited horizon, where just one school semester seems an uncrossable chasm between the present and the future. Admittedly, the present does look pretty dull. A slushy gray tone dominates the film and the soft textures of DP Jackson Parrell’s cinematography turn this small Canadian town into a blurred no-place. Only the crushed blacks of night provide an escape, although Hashi’s evenings morph into baroquely staged nightmares just as frequently as they take the form of drunken revelry. Okita is most at home with these party scenes; he understands how intoxicants heighten juvenile braggadocio, but also how those boasts paper over pain and vulnerability. The pain, however, proves too much for Hashi. His high school days end in violence and he’s cast out into unceasing winter, the film finally giving into the grim cliche it earlier strived to avoid. It needn’t end this way. A little more wisdom, and a little more time, might be enough to convince all involved that summer always, inevitably rolls around.

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