26th Aug2021

Fantasia 2021: ‘Follow The Light’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Tsubasa Nakagawa, Itsuki Nagasawa, Rina Ikoma, Taro Suruga, Toshiro Yanagiba | Written by Yoichi Narita, Yu Sakudo | Directed by Yoichi Narita

Fantasia Festival has been helping me out this year with it’s range and variety of coming-of-age movies. Follow The Light adds some sci-fi to a terrifically written and original coming-of-age story.

Follow The Light starts off a bit slow but in truth this is a slow paced movie. I’d even use the word calm because that’s how I felt while watching much of the movie. It tackles several issues (more on those later) but in this kind of relaxed way. It’s not an experience I’ve had very often with films but it’s a welcome one.

Shy school kid Akira moves with his dad to the Japanese countryside and a school that is about to be closed for good. After seeing Maki, a mysterious teenager that has left the school for unclear reasons, on the roof of a farm, he is drawn to her. Later, strange green lights appear in the sky in the town and Akira discovers a crop circle with Maki laying in the middle. The two keep this secret but when it eventually comes out, rumours quickly spread.

There’s a lot going on in Follow The Light but not in any kind of confusing way. This is just teenagers lives and how it is effected by mysterious things out of their control. I, like many people I’m sure, can relate to the outcasts. Maki and Akira clearly feel like no-one understands them, not even their peers around them. Maki has clearly been hurt by stories and rumours that almost definitely aren’t true, while Akira is the new kid and therefore ready to be bullied like Maki if he doesn’t fit in. There’s smaller themes dotted about here that might not get as much screen time but are equally as important. Small towns and villages slowly falling apart and the people living their struggling to make ends meet. There’s also a big sense of how important family and friends can be, no matter how small.

Adding to the relaxation feeling of the movie is this terrific and calming score. A score that actually brings on a feeling of melancholy at times, perfectly encapsulating characters feelings on screen but also with that sci-fi aesthetic. The sci-fi element of the movie isn’t pushed hard but it is always there and it give Follow The Light something intriguing that similar movies might lack.

As with many coming-of-age movies, things get worst before they get better for the lead characters and you’ll feel their heartbreaks alongside them, hoping that they get a happy ending, which does get there eventually.

I liked Follow The Light more and more as it went on. It grew on me and by the time the credits rolled I was smiling. It’s a distinctly original, beautifully shot and tranquil movie. Oh, and I definitely need one of those rose petal ice creams, where can I get one of them?

**** 4/5

Follow The Light screened as part of this years Fantasia Film Festival.


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