Initially, it seems as if Mike Ott’s Littlerock may be just another barebones American indie — a collection of nicely shot little moments that never coalesces into much. In what’s quite a nice surprise, that turns out not to be the case. Though its scenes are low-key, the film is called upon to do quite a bit of thematic heavy lifting, and its lyrical meditations on the constraints of small-town life and the difficulties of communication are richly melancholy.
Atsuko Okatsuka (who also co-wrote with Ott and cinematographer Carl McLaughlin) and Rintaro Sawamoto star as siblings Atsuko and Rintaro, Japanese tourists who end up stranded on the fringes of Los Angeles County in the town of Littlerock when their rental car breaks down on the way to San Francisco.
While waiting for a replacement, the two bide their time in a motel room. A party next door sends Rintaro, who speaks a little English, to plead for quiet, but the siblings end up joining in and making a friend with the enthusiastic Cory (Cory Zacharia).
Cory, a wannabe model, actor and all-around artiste, is a pretty remarkable character creation. His inherent decency stands in contrast to the redneckish thugs he considers his friends, but his lack of self-awareness is pervasive — he sincerely performs his model walk at his friends’ request despite their obvious mocking and he openly yearns for Atsuko’s affections, even though it’s clear she’s interested elsewhere. And yet, the film never condescends to Cory or the small-town milieu he represents. The character and Zacharia’s guileless performance are utterly winning.
It doesn’t take long for Rintaro to get fed up with the scene, but Atsuko wants to hang around even after a replacement car is ready. Despite not being able to speak a word of English, she develops a blossoming romance with Jordan (Brett L. Tinnes) and a friendship with Cory. The arrangement is utterly temporary though, and the fleeting and frustrating nature of the film’s connections suffuses it with a tangible sense of longing.
The Blu-ray Disc
Presented in 1080p high definition and a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Littlerock features a crisp digital image, free of artifacts or compression issues. Sharpness and clarity is strong throughout, and colors are fairly vibrant and consistent save for several low-light scenes where they look a little off. This is likely due to the source material and not the digital transfer. Overall, the film looks quite nice.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is similarly strong, featuring clean dialogue, gently immersive use of the surrounds and excellent clarity during the film’s well-curated stable of music, including cuts from Amiina and The Cave Singers.
Ott, Zacharia and Okatsuka team up for a breezy, genial commentary track. About 10 minutes of deleted scenes are included alongside a number of preliminary screen tests. Several festival promos reveal Zacharia to be not a far cry from his onscreen character. A stills gallery and the film’s theatrical trailer are also included.
The Bottom Line
No middling, meandering indie here. Mike Ott’s Littlerock is an auspicious and accomplished film given an excellent high def presentation.Powered by Sidelines