Told in a Wes Anderson-esque tableau style, Makoto Nagahisa’s We Are Little Zombies is a visual onslaught that frames childhood grief as a computer game, with avatars, quests, save points and perhaps even a chance of a game reset.
Hikari (Keita Ninomiya), Ikuko (Sena Nakajima), Ishi (Satoshi Mizuno) and Takemura (Mondo Okumura) meet at the crematorium after the funeral of each of their parents. They are impassive and unimpressed. Watching the bone dust emanating from the crematorium chimney, it’s similarity is likened to the parmesan sprinkled on Hikari’s last meal. Showing no obvious emotion, the four avoid well-meaning relatives and head off to face life together.
Visiting each teen’s home, we learn of how their parents died, although most important for them is the retrieval of favoured items. With deadpan absurdity, they form a band at a rubbish dump where they are spotted by a music producer and become an overnight sensation. The underlying question though is Hikari’s inability to cry and it is his fluoro, fantastical video game journey we are on. As he says, “Reality is too stupid to cry over.”
This is definitely a movie you need to surrender to and, as my friend James said, it’s a lot of movie for 9pm. The visuals are supersaturated and frenetic, the music earworm catchy and the kids utterly charming, although there is an uneasy sense that Ikuko might be a sociopath.
Inventive camera view points keep you on your toes, from aerial views that make the protagonist look like they are in a Pacman style game to the view from inside a bag of snacks. For all its charm, it is a sobering critique of neglectful parenting; all four feel they are disappointments, forgotten in their parents quest to meet their own needs.
The computer game with in the movie has its own end, with credits rolling and was believable enough to fool me for a second and send at least one patron out the door. The real final scene though, is a memorable one and the end song saw fellowmen film-goers singing along to it as we headed home. We are zombies but alive!
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.