The People Garden (2016) (a film review by Mark R. Leeper).

September 13, 2016 | By | Reply More

CAPSULE: Somewhere in this 83 minute mystery story, ‘The People Garden’, there is a mediocre 20 minute film struggling to get out. A 20 something woman goes to Japan to find her missing rock star boyfriend and then to break up with him. The search leads her to a possibly supernatural Japanese forest where her boyfriend was making a music video but has disappeared from the shooting location without word. The film raises many questions, answers few, and none to the viewer’s satisfaction. Nadia Litz writes and directs. Rating: -1 (-4 to +4) or 3/10.

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Sweetpea (played by Dree Hemingway) is a rock fan who has had a relationship with rock star Jamie (Francois Arnaud). We see them dance together once. Once! Supposedly they had some sort of relationship but now Sweetpea is tired of the rock star. She has flown to Japan where Jamie is making a music video. Sweetpea has come thousands of miles to break off her liaison with Jamie but he has disappeared from the set without telling anyone. Incidentally, the video-makers are shooting in the famous and mysterious Aokigahara Forest, known as the Suicide Forest, where many Japanese have committed suicide.

Writer/director Nadia Litz was expecting that the suspense would pull the viewer into the story but we are given little reason to have concern for the fate of Jamie or even of Sweetpea. The characters seem flat. We see Sweetpea dancing with Jamie and are told just that she had a relationship with him but that she is chasing to Japan to break up with him. Sweetpea searches the forest and finds where the music video was being filmed. Jamie had been there that morning but had disappeared. One would think that the production people would welcome Sweetpea coming and looking for Jamie but Sweetpea is just met with never-explained hostility.

The film is 83 minutes long and there would have been plenty of time for Litz to develop Sweetpea but, instead, she lazily fills out a feature-length with long takes that have limited motion and in which nothing happens. A good editor would have cut this film down to less than half its current length.

At times, Litz seems to try experimenting with the style. She throws in an overhead shot. I believe toward the beginning, there is a piece where it looks like she is experimenting with the number of frames per second. None of this is explained or seems to amount to much.

Litz seems to be taking advantage of the current interest in the Aokigahara Suicide Forest. While Sweetpea tries to be serious in her concern for Jamie, it is hard to take seriously any character named ‘Sweetpea’. She is played by the very serious Dree Hemingway, the daughter of Mariel Hemingway and the granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway.

This is a film with an atmosphere somewhere between dream-like and lethargic atmosphere, but it needed a much stronger plot. I would rate it a -1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 3/10.

Mark R. Leeper

(c) Mark R. Leeper 2016.

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Category: Films, Horror, MEDIA

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