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Evil Does Not Exist Review

by Daniel Reynolds
4.0 out of 5.0 stars

In writer-director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Evil Does Not Exist, a proposal to build a “glamping” facility (that’s glamourous camping) in rural Japan flows into troubled waters after the locals push back against the idea. As far as conflicts go, this one is about as common as it gets these days, and yet the film’s insights go beyond a mere Us vs. Them framing.

While there is no centre, per se, to Evil Does Not Exist, the figure at its heart is Takumi (Hitoshi Omika), a self-described “odd-job man” whose words—which are few—carry weight. Naturally, the pro-glamping agents want to enlist his help to convince the town to allow construction to go ahead. As Hamaguchi’s script reveals, however, there’s more to the area than these short-sighted capitalists know or care to understand. Still, the agents (Ryûji Kosaka and Ayaka Shibutani) are not quite reduced to villains here either; they’re just doing their jobs, as it were, but aren’t blind to the growing intractability of the situation and their role within it. Powered by Omika’s placid performance and a discordant score, Hamaguchi allows that sense of irresolution to burble away, creating a film that is somehow unsettling and peaceful in equal measure.

If the ending of Evil Does Not Exist feels abrupt, it’s because of how engrossing the film becomes. Despite Hamaguchi’s even-handedness, despite even the resolute declaration of his chosen title, there’s still a confrontation to be had. That it’s not quite the one we expect is why its effect lingers, the film’s simple narrative branching out in ways we too hadn’t considered.

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