Cast: Akiko Masuda, Alex Zhang Hungtai
Official Selection, 2018 International Film Festival Rotterdam
People are at their most vulnerable during times of transition, and struggling saxophonist Alex (Alex Zhang Hungtai) is no different. At the beginning of this delicate, patient, character study, the reserved young man arrives on the Big Island of Hawaii searching for his grandparents. After being away for decades, he hopes to reconnect with blood relatives that, up to this point, have only existed as foggy memories. Instead of finding closure, he happens upon the reflective confines of a Zen bed and breakfast run by the formidable Akiko (Akiko Masuda). Sensing deep unease and anxiety in the young man, she suggests he sit back, relax, and stay awhile.
Singularly patient and calm, Christopher Makoto Yogi’s lovely debut feature gives Alex the time and space to contemplate questions of family and identity that brought him to this breezy paradise in the first place. Long passages unfold with only the ambient sounds of nature to pass the time. Bubbling underneath the sundrenched tropical locale is a whirlpool of heightened trauma that evokes the beguiling work of David Lynch. And yet nothing in AUGUST AT AKIKO’S feels bleak or sinister; if anything its jazzy, deliriously surreal climax is a worthy descendent of Thai master Apichatpong Weerasethakul, showing what happens when an open mind and a free spirit are in perfect alignment.
– Glenn Heath, Jr.