WHEN I’M A MOTH – Review by Susan Granger
In her memoirs, Hillary Rodham Clinton mentions that, in 1969, just after graduating from Wellesley and before entering Yale Law School, she spent her summer vacation in Valdez, Alaska, working in a fish- packing plant. She observed, “Sliming fish was pretty good preparation for life in Washington.”
Based on that slim factoid, Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak concocted this parable. They’d previously co-helmed The Wall of Mexico (2019) about rich Mexican-Americans who build a wall to keep out poor white thieves, along with Maya Dardel”= (2017), featuring Lena Olin as a poet who announces on a radio show that she plans to commit suicide.
This story begins with: “What follows is a work of fiction. So is the United States political situation.” If the filmmakers were trying to make a socio/political point, it’s too elusive to decipher.
Instead, they weave a pointless narrative about an idealistic young woman with long, blonde hair whose name is Hillary (Addison Timlin). Early on, she announces, “I’m going to be a politician. I’m on a predetermined path.”
Knowing no one, Hillary befriends two Japanese men who watch her walk home from the cannery each day. Mitsuru (Toshiji Takeshima) is a drunk but Ryohei (T.J. Kayama) pursues the relationship. Perhaps teasing, he says he’s from Nagasaki – to which she seriously replies, “I guess I’ll have to be involved in something like that (one day).”
Soulful Ryohei is smitten but self-absorbed Hillary prefers to engage in meandering conversations about human nature and her future, murmuring, “You can’t get rid of ignorance. It always seems to triumph…somehow, I feel doomed.”
The title emanates for Hillary’s self-description as “a moth that has to be in a cocoon first” before pursuing what she perceives as her destiny.
While Lyn Moncrief’s cinematography captures Alaska’s snow-capped mountains and spectacular scenery, the concept’s self-conscious pretentiousness is as off-putting as it is tedious.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, When I’m a Moth is an oddly frustrating 3, streaming on most digital platforms.