Man From Reno


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Man From Reno
"A polished film that acknowledges its place in the canon of American mysteries and makes a worthy contribution."

He is an elderly sheriff in a small town who runs over a stranger in the middle of the night and takes him to hospital, only to have him mysteriously disappear. She is a Japanese mystery writer visiting San Francisco who is coaxed into bed with a stranger only to have him vanish the next day, leaving his luggage behind. Their stories will intertwine in a classic mystery story with a real sense of danger.

Writer/director Dave Boyle describes this as his first film with a plot, and it certainly makes up for lost time. The twists come thick and fast as the narrative develops, yet it's anchored by strong performances from the two leads. It's a welcome higher profile role for Pepe Serna, playing the sheriff; after spending most of his career in bit parts, he enlivens the film with his charismatic turn and gives his character a keen intelligence of the sort people are too quick to overlook in small town folk. Meanwhile Ayako Fujitani is cool but sympathetic as heroine Aki, naturally cautious yet sharp-eyed and possessed of a writer's curiosity as well as a secret that drives her to prove herself.

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We meet her first in the context of a reunion with old friends, their complex feelings for her instantly forging connections for viewers too. As the story advances we are keenly aware of her vulnerability; like some unlucky Hitchcock character she is drawn into other people's plot, all too easily playing a part that has been chosen for her.

Boyle's triumph here is in keeping us focused as he cuts between what initially seem like unconnected events and leaves each character behind to focus on the other. The rule of mystery writing is usually to keep clues sparse, but here there are many, and few of them are truly red herrings, even if they seem to lead in different directions. The separate strands of plot are very effectively managed and Kazuki Kitamura, in his first major English language role, makes a suitably weighty impression as the man who may be behind it all.

High quality technical work and the occasional visual homage to Vertigo (with which the film shares several locations) result in a polished film that acknowledges its place in the canon of American mysteries and makes a worthy contribution. Those familiar with Scott Walker's song of the same name will also be left wondering. It's a film that will linger in your thoughts for some time and that will make you wary of talking to strangers.

Reviewed on: 28 Jan 2015
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Man From Reno packshot
A Californian sheriff and a Japanese novelist both have close encounters with strangers who subsequently disappear.

Director: Dave Boyle

Starring: Ayako Fujitani, Pepe Serna, Kazuki Kitamura

Year: 2014

Runtime: 111 minutes

Country: US


Glasgow 2015

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