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‘We Are Little Zombies’ (review)

Produced by Taihei Yamanishi, Shinichi Takahashi,
Haruki Yokoyama, Haruhiko Hasegawa
Written and Directed by Makoto Nagahisa
Starring Keita Ninomiya, Satoshi Mizuno,
Mondo Okumura, Sena Nakajima

 

Highly inventive, hugely entertaining comedy/drama/musical that, even with a running time of two full hours, never drags.

Four high school kids meet at a funeral, where they discover they have all recently become orphans.

They like each other right away and form an ersatz family, living on the streets and eventually, with the help of some industrious and musically talented homeless folks, decide to form a rock band.

While this may sound like a relatively straightforward story, We Are Little Zombies is anything but.

The film does indeed explore the kids’ individual and collective reactions to their parents’ deaths and the ways in which they process their grief.

However, we’re absolutely not in Afterschool Special territory here.

For one thing, the kids aren’t initially upset about their parents’ (mostly violent) demises.

Hikari (the excellent Keita Ninomiya) consistently preferred to play his video games than to spend time with his mom and dad; at one point, he wonders if they ever loved him at all.

At the funeral, Hikari is admonished by his aunt for not crying.

“Reality is too stupid to cry over”, he opines in his amusing narration.

The kids’ muted emotions – and eventual coming-of-age – provide the backbone for the film. At one point, one of them watches koi swimming and wonders what it would be like to feel that alive.

Little Zombies covers some dramatic ground (in utterly oddball but affecting fashion), but it’s mainly a helluva lot of fun.

Writer/director Makoto Nagahisa employs an arsenal of cinematic tools with wonderful results.

Split screen, slow motion, title cards, eclectic score, animation, even some Claymation (including a witty nod to Max Headroom) all work together to make We Are Little Zombies a lightning-paced treat.

It all culminates in a near-perfect wrap up, which is delightfully surreal, playful and surprisingly emotional.

Adventurous viewers shouldn’t miss this one. Easily one of the year’s best so far.

We Are Little Zombies hits virtual cinemas, live cinemas and VOD July 10th!

 

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