Fantastic Fest Review: Yoshihiro Nakamura's 'Golden Slumber'
by Alex Billington
September 28, 2010
"Once there was a way to get back home..." I love seeing films at Fantastic Fest that I don't know anything about going in, yet walk out loving. Yoshihiro Nakamura's Golden Slumber is one of those films, and one that I can honestly say I truly loved. It's quite long, running over two hours, but it's a great story that kept me intrigued as it continued to relentlessly push forward. The story follows Aoyagi (Masato Sakai), a humble delivery man from Sendai, Japan, who suddenly ends up framed for the assassination of the Prime Minister and sets off on the run from the cops. It's a smart, amusing, captivating thriller that I'm so glad I got to see.
First, any film that uses a Beatles song as a motiff throughout the entire film is almost always guaranteed to win my heart. If you didn't pick up from the title, The Beatles' "Golden Slumbers" is the key song used often in the film, and much more than just some music in the soundtrack (which was also damn good). Secondly, it's not often we ever see films where a serial killer is actually the hero and not a bad guy, but that's getting a bit into spoiler territory so I won't dwell on that too much, but it was fantastic. Third, there's just something wonderful about Nakamura's direction that was exhilarating to watch in a day and age where too many films become way too boring, way too often. He kept a steady pace that rarely was a hindrance until the very end.
Golden Slumber is about Aoyagi's "worst, weirdest day of his life" and follows that entire story, but as with any good film, it's also about his relationships and the characters he meets along the way. Aoyagi must go on the run and at first seems to narrowly dodge the police and nearly everyone else who seems to be after him, but eventually learns that he needs to outsmart them before he ends up killed or thrown in jail forever. This is one of those fantastic foreign gems that you need to find and go in without knowing anything about where it goes, because it's the surprise of every twist & turn that makes it so extremely enjoyable to watch overall.
Everything about the film stands out in my mind: the characters, the performances, the amazing soundtrack, the funky, funny, and quite brilliant storyline, the fantastic cinematography. I know I seem to say this often at these film festivals, but Golden Slumber is truly a film that I won't forget anytime soon. In fact, I already want to watch it again, I had such a great experience seeing it all unfold, that it's something I already wish I could sit through again. Yoshihiro Nakamura is definitely a director who's now my radar and someone I will be watching closely. And although I'm unsure if they'll ever get distribution (due to rights issue with The Beatles song), this is a film that I hope everyone who appreciates truly great Japanese cinema well seek out.
Alex's Fantastic Fest Rating: 9.5 out of 10