New York Asian Film Festival 2021 Review: Shadows

Written by Taylor Baker

25/100

Shadows marks the first time director Glenn Chan has gone up to a 90 minute runtime. After previously releasing the 70 minute film Two Boys and a Mermaid in 2015, Glenn exchanges comedy for a psychological exploration of murder. Using an unexplained phenomena our main character Ching, visually appears inside of various victims subconsciouses and witnesses their experiences of abuse and murder.

New York Asian Film Festival 2021

The film opens in an underwater like sequence, broken glass decorates the floor, there’s smashed items and whole items of all sorts adorning an apartment. Eventually the camera does a full 180 and we settle in on a man standing very self important in front of a window as he puts on a shirt. I will say the amount of style over substance in the first minute of the film was immediately worrying. After he’s put his arms through both sleeves we wander over to his dead family strewn along the couch with audaciously made up head wounds and him holding the instrument of murder, a trophy of some sort. This sequence ends with him placing a nonsensical phone call to the police followed by him leaping out of the aforementioned window.

What proceeds is somewhere between a Medium episode and David Fincher fan fiction. The investigation is forced and uninteresting, with typical dialogue we’ve heard spewed out a thousand times. “If there’s no new evidence in two days, I’m closing the case.” “Run a background check on all of them.” You get it. It’s not that this dialogue doesn’t have a time or place in film or storytelling in general it’s that when it’s used the audience should be invested in what is happening and that’s the problem with Shadows. It’s very hard to care, because it’s unclear what exactly the stakes are that are in play, and the stakes you’re aware of aren’t very interesting, let alone gripping.

Shadows Trailer

Shadows is screening as part of the New York Asian Film Festival and is available to watch virtually through their streaming platform until August 22nd.

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