Bokeh * ½ / *****
Directed by: Geoffrey Orthwein & Andrew Sullivan.
Written by: Geoffrey Orthwein & Andrew Sullivan.
Starring: Maika Monroe (Jenai), Matt O'Leary (Riley).
The movies have long been obsessed with the end of the world – so much so, that both the Hollywood special effects extravaganza version and the indie movie low-key version have both essentially become clichés – in the later, the world goes out with a whimper, in the former with a bang. Bokeh is definitely the later – an indie film about an American couple on vacation in Iceland, who wake up one morning to find that the city is completely empty except for the two of them. Is this the rapture? After all, everything else is still there, and there are no bodies. They try and contact people back home, and they can’t – the internet hasn’t been updated since the previous day. As far as they can tell, they are utterly alone in the world.
Bokeh wants to be a profound and beautiful film about the experience. The later it certainly is, as there are many dreamy shots of the beautiful countryside in Iceland, the lights in the sky, etc. At times, the film seems to want to be a low key version of a later Malick film – going for the same result, with less twirling, and there are moments of quiet beauty throughout the film. As for profound, not so much. The film doesn’t really do much with its premise once it establishes it. The runtime feels like it has been padded with unnecessary actions – like when Jenai (Maika Monroe) decides that she must check every house she comes across – and then just as quickly abandons it.
The film really is about this young couple – one who hasn’t been together for all that long (this is their first trip together), who, like all couples, eventually get to know each other perhaps too well. Being the literal last two people on earth speeds the process along somewhat, and you have to wonder if the differences between them that become untenable throughout the film would have been revealed at all had they had some sort of other outlet – other people to interact with. Often, early in a relationship, you do see little wrong with the other person, and you devote yourself to that relationship at the expense of all others. It’s only gradually, you begin to ease back on that.
As a seed of an idea for a movie, that’s not a bad one, and I guess I could see it working – especially as a short. The problem with Bokeh is that even at just 95 minutes it feel ponderous and slow. Even though little happens in the movie, it feels like it pounds its message into your head again and again. The two lead performances are pretty good – I particularly like Monroe, although I wonder if that is some residual goodwill from films like The Guest and It Follows – but then again, neither is given much to do. The ending feels rather pat and predictable – again, for a film with such little going on, they sure do like their foreshadowing. Basically, while I was intrigued with the premise, I just kept waiting for the film to do something interesting with it, and it never really did.