Written and directed by Tony Mullen, in the heart of Tokyo, an old man turns to a strange robotic pet to assuage his grief over his deceased dog. When his new companion’s uncanny responses threaten to expose his most secret desires, he realizes he’s gotten more than he bargained for. Starring: Yutaka Imazawa and Shûhei Kii.
There’s an unusual feel to this film, it opens on a curious air that almost heads down a horror themed road but then reveals itself to be a path of loneliness. Mullen’s direction succinctly captures the wandering, lost atmosphere that goes with this old man’s current state of being. His style is an interesting mix, going from wider, more contemplative shots to a close-up, fly on the wall type movement. The latter matches well to how the story evolves tonally, moving through drama to comedy. It’s also a fantastic choice of location that can simultaneously bring a hustle and bustle of the city and an isolation and quietness.
Its story hits on several different points, it has a layer of loss lingering in the background but it also feels as though it’s exploring the idea of the older generation being displaced. This quiet, lone, elderly gentleman with his old-fashioned television set feels very out of place in a modern world, as though he’s trying to still live a more simple life but confronted with technology. The writing then brings through an unexpected edge of comedy, it uses minimal dialogue and yet is very effective. It’s the sort of comedic style that gives you a sly smile with its casual feel. The effects work creating his new mechanical pet is impressive, especially considering it was made in 2014. It may not look entirely real (as even some big studios struggle with that today) but it gets surprisingly close for an independently made short and shows the level of commitment and effort that went into making it.
Yutaka Imazawa gives an interesting performance, the introduction to his character is on a note lacking self-awareness and it immediately makes you question whether you should trust him. As the story moves forward, it begins to open up his character and Imazawa gains your sympathy through creating this flawed yet ultimately good persona. He also has to get extra points for being the only character involved and spending most of his time acting to, what assumedly was, nothing and yet he carries the film quite easily.
Electric Town is surprising, creative and a relatable tale of how you can never replace a pet while tapping into a classic story of technology gone wrong at the same time. It’s an interesting blend to tell those two stories but it manages to be funny, unexpected and slightly touching. Much like his writing, Mullen’s direction also feels like a blend of different styles, not letting you get too much of an idea about him but keeping you curious to see more.