Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis, Elizabeth Olsen
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It’s all an ode to how connection to the physical, rather than ephemeral or even digital, is what truly matters.
In the age of digital technology, it can be easy to take said technology for granted. Photos that used to take the right mixture of chemicals and patience to process can now be taken and shared with millions with the press of a button. Music no longer requires a group of musicians working together; nowadays, anyone with a laptop and the right programs can do it on their own. Even film has become as easy as point, shoot and upload. But with all that data, all that clutter, all that ease of use, the reliability of tangible product can be lost.
This line of thinking, one most recently popularised by the retro-adoring hipsters, takes on a decidedly less pretentious tone in the hands of director Mark Raso and writer Jonathan Tropper (This Is Where I Leave You). Taking on a stranger-than-fiction story about the end of a once-dependable type of film stock as its bedrock, Kodachrome depicts the incredibly rocky relationship between struggling record executive Matt and his dying photographer father Ben, played by Jason Sudeikis and Ed Harris respectively.
Their comparable levels of surliness make for rather tense conversations, particularly with Sudeikis, who just oozes contempt for his deadbeat dad out of every syllable he utters.
Harris’ Hunter-S-Thompson-by-way-of-American-Recordings-era-Johnny-Cash demeanour shows a man who knows the way of the world, fully aware that he is an irritant within that world, and that he doesn’t have much time left in it. Add to this Elizabeth Olsen’s Zooey as the frequently ignored voice of reason, and you have a highly uncomfortable road trip… but in a good way.
Tropper’s dialogue has an effect akin to a sledgehammer to the stomach, as a lot of the conversations are peppered with moments where the bluntness and harshness makes for serious impact. Whether it’s showing how much the characters hate each other or how much they love each other, that impact almost takes on a physical sensation in how cold and heart-tugging it can get. It’s balanced out beautifully, meaning that when we get to the point of sheer pathos and we see why more antiquated methods are used in photography and music, it lands perfectly.
It’s all an ode to how connection to the physical, rather than ephemeral or even digital, is what truly matters. When you have to put in that much effort to get something done, like driving cross-country just to get to a single photo development shop, it makes you appreciate what that something holds. Like how food tastes better when you make it from scratch, rather than defrosting it; the effort makes the connection.
As both a dysfunctional family road trip film and a look into the way we preserve our memories and experiences, Kodachrome serves as a (forgive the pun) snapshot of why the older methods were as dependable as they were.