A young girl in a blue coat and blue knit hat holds a yellow gloved hand to shield her eyes from the sun. Naked tree branches in the foreground behind her.

Film Review: Evil Does Not Exist

Film Reviews

Film Review: Evil Does Not Exist
Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
In Theaters: 05.31

The natural was inarguably here first—both inside of mankind and out of it. We exist in nature. We’ve commodified it, made it suitable to our needs and destroyed it. Somewhat ironically, the natural exists inside each human, too. It’s possible to tame the urges that come from the natural, but for many, taming is a constant battle.

This is what Evil Does Not Exist, the latest film from acclaimed director Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy), seems to explore. The film takes place in a rural Japanese community and follows self-described “odd job man” Takumi (Hitoshi Omika) and his young daughter Hana (Ryo Nishikawa) as they perform community chores and learn about the environment that surrounds them. A company has plans to create a “glamping” tourist destination on the wild land. These plans impact Takumi in ways he doesn’t anticipate.

True to Hamaguchi’s style, the film moves at a slower-than-conventional pace, but never drags and never loses the viewer, even when he chooses to focus on tree branches for extended sequences or cut off the music mid-scene. While these choices may sound frustrating, they come off as purposeful and carefully selected. But the film isn’t completely bound in the unconventional. In what is certainly one of the best scenes of the year, Evil Does Not Exist presents a subtly hilarious and captivating sequence in which the community members attend a meeting and question the faces of the company. 

Part of the film’s brilliance, though, is that there is no clichéd metaphor or observation that isn’t either explored or negated by the film. Takumi tells the company that he’ll help them if they plan their campsite carefully, and the film provides a generous amount of time for the audience to get to know the faces of the company as natural human beings. The end of the film, which ends up in a somewhat shocking place, leaves the viewer simultaneously full of questions and satisfied. 

But what about evil and the assertion that it doesn’t exist? We tend to see evil in many forms. Corporations, for one. But the film seeks to remind us that corporations are managed by humans, even if they make wrong choices. We see nature as evil, too. It gives and it takes away, often with no warning. We certainly see mankind as evil. It’s a common assertion that the biggest threat to man is man. Evil Does Not Exist invites you to consider all of these things and the way that they work. It’s not always the way that you expect. –Mickey Randle

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