A bloody schoolgirl walks in traffic, accompanied by funny, ironic music. A truck flips over behind her. She smiles.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 20th offering, Before We Vanish veers away from his usual moody, creepy and at times, ghostly touches (Cure, Pulse, Creepy). He now tackles the alien invasion genre, and punctuates it with bits of humor.

After the odd little introduction, we then meet one of the central characters, who seems to have lost his mind. Many people lose many parts of their minds (this is related to the alien quest, but we won’t spoil the details). Some lose touch with reality, but others are freed of daily burdens. So what’s up with the invasion? These aliens appear to be human at first glance, but they are so uneducated about how homo sapiens interact that it causes moments of silliness. Not quite a space invaders-paranoia-end of the world movie (though these elements are present), Before We Vanish is more of a gentle drama that touches on the human condition and family ties. With an implied sci-fi slant, of course.

In terms of tone, this is probably Kurosawa’s lightest film to date, even if the subject matter could be considered frightening. The concept of losing everything in a war with intruders has been dealt with for decades in Japanese cinema. Monster movies such as Godzilla created a sense of fear and slow-churning doom. Kurosawa’s reinvention of the genre doesn’t show us SFX creatures, but instead turns a mirror on the human race. In many ways, Before We Vanish feels like those old sci-fi flicks – music included – just in a more contemporary setting. In those classics, people seemed frantic and hysterical about the end of the world. Here, the focus is more on the complicated emotional bonds people share, and what might happen to these once the aliens attack. Will it matter at all? Everyone will be annihilated anyway, right? So why care about our loved ones? Would you? Would an alien learning the ropes on Planet Earth? The idea herein is something like having blind faith. A bit like being a fan of Kurosawa’s past works and not quite trusting him to go outside his usual genre. Some fans will take the leap, and others won’t. Those that do might quite enjoy his latest offering. Whether there’s a happy ending (in the choice, or in the plot) might not be the point.


Before We Vanish hits US theatres February 2nd, 2018.