Kodachrome – Review

Worth seeing: to see a paint-by-numbers drama develop into a story that tugs at the heart-strings and opens the tear-ducts thanks to a resounding performance from Ed Harris
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Featuring:Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis, Bruce Greenwood, Dennis Haysbert, Elizabeth Olsen, Wendy Crewson
Key crew:Mark Raso, Shawn Levy, AG Sulzberger, Jonathan Tropper
Channel:Netflix
Length:100 minutes
Episodes:1 off TV Movie
Broadcast date:From 20th April 2018
Country:Canada, US

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Taking inspiration from a New York Times article about the world’s last processor of the discontinued Kodachrome colour film, writer Jonathan Tropper starts by painting a relationship that’s not just blurry but blank, between Ben Ryder (Ed Harris), “one of the world’s greatest photographers,” and his son Matt (Jason Sudeikis), a 30-something New York-based music exec, whose career is on the fritz.

As the two travel from the Empire State to Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, the last lab in the world to process Kodachrome (the gold standard of colour film), the experience between them goes beyond the recounting of old wounds to a deeper place of redemption.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

While initially it’s unclear whether the combination of Harris’ character, a father who is a bitter disappointment to his son, and that son, played by the usually comedic Sudeikis, will gel, the two eventually reach a rhythmic stride through their animosity towards each other and back-and-forth barbs.

While caring at his core, Matt is consistently resentful, brooding and cynical – qualities that show he is definitely his father’s son.

Simultaneously, the relationship that develops between him and his father’s nurse (played by the lovely Elizabeth Olsen) is a small diversion from the heavier recollections at hand.

It’s really the under-rated Harris in this film, directed by Mark Raso and bought by Netflix, who moves this movie into semi-memorable territory.

The four-time Oscar nominee’s ability to take a ho-hum role and portray a character that’s got such a knack at causing trouble and showing his narcissistic tendencies at every turn is worthy of the viewer’s attention.

In the case of Harris’ Ben, it’s especially evident during a sequence where the trio (Harris, Sudeikis, Olsen) visit Ben’s brother Dean (Bruce Greenwood) and his wife Sarah (Wendy Crewson). While Ben manages to dust up old animosity from a past incident, Matt is sure to make it known the couple had been like parents to him, something Ben was not. “He’s more of a father than you ever were,” Matt tells Ben.

Later when father and son finally arrive at the Kansas photo shop with the canisters of Kodachrome film, Matt discovers first-hand that his dad was admired by fellow colleagues enamored of his work. “You’re the reason I became a photographer,” gushes one National Geographic photojournalist.

While a couple of main story arcs move the film along, it’s the smaller exchanges between father and son that provide its most meaningful moments. “Of course I know,” says Ben, when asked by Matt about his awareness about being the colossal bastard that Matt always knew he was. “You know the sad part, I’ve actually been trying,” says Ben, about his efforts to be better. Later he admits, “I don’t know what happened to me – what broke inside of me – maybe I was always broken.”

Still, as time gets shorter, he confesses that if he could choose one time in his life to live forever it would be the moment he held his baby son.

Those old enough to remember Kodachrome film will recall the subtle colours and adept contrast that comes across in its pictures compared with present-day digitally sharp photos – qualities that make them look like they’re from the past.

As he sifts through the developed film, Matt eventually becomes privy to those very moments recalled earlier by his dad of father and infant son.

As Ben had once said about his craft, “We’re preservationists by nature – we take pictures to stop time.”