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One Movie Punch

Apr 27, 2018

Today’s movie is “Kodachrome” (2018), the Netflix Original drama directed by Mark Raso and written for the screen by Jonathan Tropper based on an article by A.G. Sulzberger. The film follows Ben (Ed Harris), his son Matt (Jason Sudeikis), and his nurse Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen), who are traveling across country to the last photo development lab that is processing the final batches of Kodachrome film. The film debuted at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and was featured at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival.

Spoilers ahead.

This film feels like the end of an era in more than one way. The obvious metaphor relates to part of the premise. Film photography has become a much smaller portion of all the images captured nowadays, with a small but loyal population of practitioners. It makes sense that Ben Ryder is a famous photographer in the film, one who specializes in Kodachrome film, and that his aesthetic reasons for using Kodachrome become the aesthetic guides for this film.

But “Kodachrome” also feels like the end of an era for road trips, or at least the stories that can be told using a road trip that hasn’t been told. Again, it makes sense that the means by which Ben, Matt, and Zoe would get there is a road trip, which also opens up opportunities for some rather cruel character development, all coming to a head in dramatic fashion.

And here’s where the film becomes a victim of its own structure. Ben’s dying of liver cancer, and as Matt pulls him out of the hospital to complete the journey, you know exactly where the film is heading, and exactly what pictures are on the film to be developed. The cast does an amazing job, but the ending feels like a standard landing, lacking any real resolution to the wreckage left in their wake.

“Kodachrome” (2018) is a road trip film that feels like every other road trip film, and never like its own. An excellent cast and wonderful scenery help carry a sometimes overly cruel, predictable narrative, heavy on metaphor. The overall result, however, is a good film. Viewers of independent road trip and family dramas will definitely enjoy this film, but be prepared for some dark turns. 

Rotten Tomatoes: 74%

Metacritic: 57

One Movie Punch: 7.4/10

“Kodachrome” (2018) is rated TV-MA and is currently streaming on Netflix.