Every Day In Kaimuki


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Every Day In Kaimuki
"The slowburn nature of this won't be for everyone but there's a warm ebb and flow to Tengan's snapshot of a life in flux." | Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

We might be in year two of a pandemic but you'd be hard pushed to notice it in terms of its presence on film, with most directors preferring to pretend that it doesn't exist. It comes as something of a welcome change then to see director Alika Tengan fold the realities of the situation we're all living through into his film - just one of the things that makes this snapshot of life on the Hawaiian island of O'ahu relatable.

Tengan made waves with his short Moloka'i Bound, the feature version of which made the Black List's newly inaugurated Indigneous List and though this film does have the vibe of something that was made with friends in the meantime, his authenticity and ear for dialogue continue to bode well for the future. The low-key narrative - which is a docufiction hybrid very much in the mumblecore tradition - is just inviting you to hang out with it even if it is sometimes so laidback it threatens to become horizontal. Still, it's actually quite soothing just to roll a mile or two on the skateboard with Naz (Naz Kawakami, who co-wrote the script) as he prepares to leave Hawaii behind for New York.

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As Naz begins to pack up his life, handing over his DJ job to another guy, giving some of his stuff to friends and engaging in lengthy conversations about how he will wrangle his cat on the plane, we feel that sense of being torn between the comfiness of the familiar and the potential of the unknown. People who live outside of big cities or in more isolated spots may well find the idea of the energy needed to pack up and move out strikes a chord. His friends are betting against him leaving, while it seems it may be his girlfriend Sloane (Rina White) - theoretically the catalyst for the move - who is actually going to get cold feet. This is not the picture postcard side of Hawaii you might be expecting, with surf swapped for skateboard and sunshine for more of a night-time mood - something that would make it a nice companion piece for documentary Cane Fire.

The slowburn nature of this won't be for everyone but there's a warm ebb and flow to Tengan's snapshot of a life in flux, bolstered by a strong sense of place and emotional truth.

Reviewed on: 28 Jan 2022
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A young man is determined to give his life meaning outside of Kaimukī, the small Hawaiian town where he grew up, even if it means leaving everything he's ever known and loved behind.

Director: Alika Tengan

Writer: Naz Kawakami, Alika Tengan

Starring: Holden Mandrial-Santos, Naz Kawakami, Rina White

Year: 2022

Runtime: 81 minutes

Country: US


Sundance 2022

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If you like this, try:

Cane Fire