The strangely named Earthquake Bird debuted on Netflix this week. A film that is beautifully melancholy and tense. Written for screen and directed by Wash Westmoreland based on the novel by Susanna Jones.
I’ve been enjoying Disney+ and the debut of the new season of Jack Ryan on Amazon, but I thought I should get some work done and decided to see what was new on Netflix. I was caught by the odd title of Earthquake Bird, and having spent time in Japan myself for work I thought it would be right up my alley. I try to suspend disbelief when watching any movie, this helps especially with any film that deals with computer stuff or mysteries. My other friends in the IT field always cry and moan about how inaccurate this or that was in any scene where someone is “hacking” or trying to explain technical systems. I just look past it and try to enjoy the film at face value. That said I was really curious how Japanese culture, especially from a gaijin’s point of view would be handled in this film. For the most part I thought they did a really good job of capturing everyday life in Japan without succumbing to silly clichés. Alicia Vikander (Man from Uncle, Tomb Raider, Ex Machina) put in a wonderfully subdued performance as Lucy Fly, a Swedish transplant working as a script translator in Japan. Lucy harbors a distinct darkness that keeps those around her at arm’s length until she runs into a photographer named Teiji, played by Naoki Kobayashi of the J-Pop group Exile. Naoki also has moody dark side, but somehow the two are drawn to each and in turn find some light in being together. Mr. Kobayashi’s performance is the perfect counter-balance to Ms. Vikander’s Lucy. As foreboding as things feel, you are also rooting for them to be happy. The happiness is all too short lived when Lucy’s friend introduces a wildcard into the mix in an American ex-pat named Lily (played by Elvis’ granddaughter Riley Keough. I’ll stop here with any further description of storyline as seeing exactly how this all unfolds is part of what makes this movies so enjoyable.
There were some beautiful locations in Japan spotlighted and as I said before the wonderfully understated way the culture of Japan was presented was refreshing. It is not an anime wonderland like so many weebs wish it was over there. I highly recommend giving this a watch. It is slow paced and very atmospheric, while tense at times it is not really a thriller as much as a drama with some seriously dark undertones. If you are a fan of British style crime dramas, you will find this entertaining. If your tastes run more towards action crime dramas, you will find this a bit plodding without the usual mystery payoffs.