Cinema is an experience very much guided by what we see unfolding in front of us, so when our sight is taken from us there are other means for individuals to still take something away from a film. Looking to explore just that is Naomi Kawase’s Radiance, a film seeking that emotional connection with the audience but instead lets itself down with a story that lacks that all-important strength in its message.
Radiance focuses on Misako (Ayame Misaki), a young Japanese woman whose job is to write and perform audio descriptions for films in order for those who are visually impaired to still find a full experience with cinema. As she takes on the task of a latest film and gathers the opinions of her test audience, Misako comes across Nakamori (Masatoshi Nagase), a photographer whose sight is slowly disappearing.
As Misako struggles to find a good balance in what is required for the latest film, she finds herself drawn closer to the struggling Nakamori as he has to come to terms with the fact that he is slowly approaching the opportunity to take one last photo.
Radiance should and could have been a film that grabs on tight to the emotional strings and pulls them at every opportunity, especially with its striking character in Nagase’s Nakamori, but instead it results in one of the most tedious and dull films we’ve experienced at this year’s festival.
While Nagase is undoubtedly an individual who is looking to get the best out of the content he has been handed, the remainder of the film and its cast leave little to be desired, with that essential core of raw humanity severely lacking and inducing time-watching from a very early stage.
For a film focused on a strong visual aspect, one would have expected a distinct level of high quality in impressive cinematography and imagery, yet Radiance even in this department somewhat feels essentially flat and uninspiring. Its dull pallet does very little to heighten the sense of interest in the world around the main characters and even the presentation of its ‘film-within-a-film’ is extremely poor.
Radiance is a film that certainly on paper had plenty of potential, with an accomplished director behind the project and a supremely intriguing narrative, but instead the film results in a tedious affair that is of the same ilk as the poorest Hollywood weepies. In fact, given the level of its overall interest, it may well be on a different scale to some of these films even. A bitter disappointment.