Fine performances by Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis and Elizabeth Olsen combine to lift Kodachrome from run-of-the-mill to a film to savour.
This is a road trip on a much-travelled pathway. Estranged father and son come together for the first time in a decade as they drive to Kansas, to the last surviving film lab which still processes Kodachrome photos.
The father, retired photographer Ben Ryder (a memorable Ed Harris), has unearthed four early rolls of film and wants to get them developed before he dies.
There is a double deadline for the trip: Ben has terminal liver cancer, and the film lab is about to close. Ben won’t trust his film to the post and he is too ill to fly.
His nurse/carer Zooey (Elizabeth Olsen) prevails on his reluctant son Matt (Jason Sudeikis) to drive them all to Kansas. It’s not a good time for Matt, a divorced music executive who is about to lose his job, and he can’t shake his deep resentment for his father.
En route Ben does nothing to counter Matt’s hostility. He is obnoxious, insulting and hurtful. He rails against the digital world, tossing Matt’s phone out of the car in irritation at the electronic voice giving them road directions.
He remembers every photograph he ever took. Digital photographs will end up as electronic dust, he says. “Years from now when they dig us up there won’t be any pictures to find, no record of who we were or how we lived.”
Matt responds bitterly: “You just never saw me. Not once.”
He sees his father in a new light when they finally reach the about-to-close film lab, where many dedicated photographers have gathered to say their final farewells. Ben is not only recognised but revered by many of them as a renowned and inspirational photographer.
The film’s final half-hour is surprisingly touching as Ben lets down his crusty protective wall and Matt stands up for his father.
Less successful, because it is so predictable, is the growing romantic attachment between Matt and Zooey.
Scriptwriter Jonathan Tropper was inspired by a nostalgic 2010 New York Times story by A.G. Sulzberger about the final days of Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, the last lab in the world to process Kodachrome.
This is the second feature film for young Canadian director Mark Raso.
Kodachrome opens on Thursday, 7 June, at Luna Leederville and Luna On SX
Watch the trailer….