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  When I'm a Moth See Hillary Play
Year: 2019
Director: Zachary Cotler, Magdalena Zyzak
Stars: Addison Timlin, TJ Kayama, Toshiji Takeshima
Genre: Drama, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Hillary (Addison Timlin) has recently graduated from law school, and before she starts her career has opted to make some money at an Alaskan fish gutting factory, among the other workers most of whom seem to be Japanese. She is criticised by her fellow staff for not working quickly enough, and while she respects the life of labour, she is beginning to realise this form of it is not really her forte, and now is looking to the end of the Summer when she can put her plans for her life into action. She would like to move into politics, do some good in the world, and she feels she has the intellectual capacity to succeed in this chosen field, but does having so much of her future plotted out in advance remove any chance of spontaneity? Or indeed, chance?

As you might have guessed, this mysterious "Hillary" is meant to be future Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, back when she was Hillary Rodham. The filmmakers here had evidently pored over her autobiography, for they found in it a brief reference to her Summer job where she, yes, gutted fish in Alaska but wasn't too accomplished at it, and from that tiny acorn, well, it wasn't exactly a mighty oak that grew, but was more the equivalent of the Obamas movie that was released around the end of his administration, you know, the one where they met and fell in love? Except nobody presumably wanted to see Hillary meeting and falling in love with that old rogue Bill Clinton, so what we had here was politics-free as far as her career went, though she certainly talks about it.

Almost as if she is both convincing herself this is a good move for her to make and willing the political career into reality. But who does she discussing this with? How about a Japanese gentleman called Ryohei (TJ Kayama) who she sees on her way to work every morning, along with his uncle (Toshiji Takeshima)? Obviously their nations have a history and given this is set in 1969 that history is fresher in the mind that it may be now, but there did not appear to be a significance to their meeting of minds in that respect, as the future was the most important thing for Hillary, as if she could not wait to reach it. But in a Before Sunrise style development, Ryohei provides a sounding board for her to talk to, or rather talk at, as she is never more than one step away from delivering a speech to him, with him as the one-person audience, though he does get to stick his oar in occasionally.

Far from being a scathing takedown of all Hillary stood for or a full-throated endorsement of her liberal ideals, the film preferred to observe without taking a strong political stance one way or the other, meaning you could see what you wanted to in her portrayal, and draw from that what you wished. Timlin was something of a weird cypher, in that she is not shy about voicing her character's opinions, but did not seem to be harbouring any kind of inner life, simply chatting away, not inanely, but somewhat relentlessly. The filmmakers went as far as staging sex scenes between her and Ryohei, but they are artfully presented, meaning you didn't see anything, so if Hillary slash fiction was what you were hoping for, you would have to compose that yourself. Indeed, the whole project leaned on the artful, with deliberately blurry cinematography, attractive (or interesting) landscapes, and a general approach that could send the unwary into a doze if they were not careful. And yet, this playing with the audience's preconceptions and what they knew about Hillary's future did create a strange tension, leaving a contemplative mood. Apparently, this sat on the shelf for ages before its release; you can see why - who is it for?
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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