‘Man From Reno’ Film Festival Review
Dave Boyle’s Man from Reno is a suspenseful mystery about a policeman in a small town south of San Francisco, a Japanese novelist, and an elusive man shrouded in deception. Their lives all come together in a surreptitious and surprising flurry of events, which forces the viewer to hang on to each and every line and scene as the story unfolds.
The premise begins from Aki’s perspective. She’s a famous Japanese mystery novelist played by Ayako Fujitani. Aki intentionally ditches her publicity tour in San Francisco (chalk full of Japanese-speaking Americans) and disappears deep into the city to escape the lack of autonomy and anonymity that usually accompanies extreme encounters with diehard fans. Her departure from the public eye lands her in the arms of a man who goes by Akira (Kazuki Kitamura). Their ensuing relationship–or whatever it is–blossoms into a sweet romance with a touch of something a little bit off.
Akira is incredibly charming; it’s a little disconcerting how he always says just the right thing to Aki. After all, he’s just some random Japanese guy who recognizes her at a time no one should. Actually, if he were any less attractive, Aki may have had the sense to see past his charm and read the red-flag stalker signs. Either way, it’s pretty clear to the audience that the match between Akira and Aki is made to appease the deep-seated loneliness in our protagonist’s soul.
It’s quite early in the film we are introduced to Officer Paul Del Moral (Pepe Serna), the small-town sheriff who stumbles on a murder. His investigation eventually draws him into a budding mystery surrounding the already mysterious Akira, whose disappearance has garnered attention. Aki finds herself in the middle of all this and finally meets up with the Sherriff to help figure out the mystery around the disappearance, murder, and other strange events that just keep getting stranger.
None of the intense plot structure could have held together without these insanely believable performances from the cast. Fujitani and Kitamura have perfected their roles, and they shine as they push anything out of the ordinary into a wholly realistic story. Their performances were so great, in fact, it could be easy to overlook the supporting cast members who complimented the leads so well. Notable performances by Paul Serna and Yasuyo Shiba supplemented the already perfect leads.
Additionally, It’s mind-blowing the script is roughly half-Japanese and half-English. Thanks to Dave Boyle’s direction of this seamless mixture, the film never departs from a true-to-life feel. Reno basically forces the viewer to accept these language-transitioning scenes as flies on the wall because of great performances and the clear talent required to switch back and forth so cleanly between two very different languages. That little element cannot be underestimated in this depiction of American culture as a true melting pot in San Francisco.
Yet with such clever directing and performances, it’s the script that completes Man from Reno and inevitably rounds out the film to give it a lasting effect. I found myself thinking deeply to figure out the mystery right along with the characters. Though the basic story has probably been told before in so many ways, the writers crafted it in a way that doesn’t treat the viewer like an idiot. You really have to puzzle through the mystery, and think on it. By the time it’s over, you are still thinking about it while harboring a residue of conflicting emotions.
For what seems like an oversimplified or even clichéd version of an Agatha Christie novel, Man from Reno pulls through with an elegant story and hits the independent film festival circuit with much praise. This trip to Tallgrass Film Festival nabbed Man from Reno another award for Best Narrative. I couldn’t agree more with the praise it’s received, and I look forward to a wide distribution so the world can finally experience a great, suspenseful mystery again.