Denman W18 Masthead 2

Review: Kodachrome

Roslyn Hull

Set during the final days of the admired photo development system known as Kodachrome, a father and son hit the road in order to reach the Kansas photo lab before it closes its doors for good. IMDb

Independent films these days have many parents (production companies) and often just as many proud aunties (distribution companies). It is an indication of how far streaming TV has come that this film will only be released on Netflix and not in cinemas in the USA. Even more interesting (or perhaps ironic) considering the story is about a passing technology, about what we may have gained but more about what we have lost in the process. And it makes special note of the fact that it is not digitally shot but all created on actual 35mm film stock.

Based on a real business (Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, that continued to process Kodachrome until the chemicals needed ran out, long after Kodak stopped producing them) and an article written for the New York Times, this story plays to photography buff nostalgia.

I get the romance, the tactile reality of handling real film, fitting it on to the sprockets, winding on, clicking closed the back of the camera and then the magical wait to see what develops. I recognised the repetitive cleaning, shooting and reloading – both my father and brother were/are professional photographers.

However, more powerful than any nostalgia is the sad little story at the centre of the road trip. A selfish, self-centred father with little interest in or knowledge of his son is dying. His son is angry and vaguely disgusted by his father, having been raised by his uncle, who is the polar opposite of his selfish brother. There is also a wise, sexy nurse (Elizabeth Olsen) and a supposed mystery – some old rolls of Kodachrome the father wants processed while he, and the photography stock, are still here.

It doesn’t take much to guess what’s on those rolls but in the hands of Olsen, an actor I am appreciating more with each role, and two understated, all-American men this becomes a small gem. As played by Ed Harris, riffing on the arrogance of Jackson Pollock or Ernest Hemingway and the ugliness of age and illness, the father is an unmitigated bastard but oh-so-recognisable.

The son, Jason Sudeikis, is the one who has to grow and change through the experience. He handles this touchingly, his anger and then grief completely untheatrical and believable. I was surprised at this SNL’s alumni’s depth but I should not have been. Despite a great history of being snide and smarmy on screen, he really shines in ‘everyman’ roles, just like another alumnus of the same show – Tom Hanks.

Released in Australian cinemas, June 7. Roslyn saw this film as a guest of Dendy Cinemas and Icon Films.


Ros Hull

Roslyn is a writer and storyteller who loves all things Canberra, her family, sci fi and movies – but not in that order. She has worked in museum education since 2001 and has a passion for imparting knowledge to others. Writing is her happy place, particularly if there is a dog at her feet and a coffee in her hand. More about the Author

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