Cinema Review: Kodachrome

It’s not only letter-writing that has gone the way of the dodo in our miasmic digital age. Ironically, as more people than ever take pictures with their phones (millions every minute – if you didn’t snap it, it didn’t happen), old-school photography, on film and with prints, is now virtually extinct. Kodachrome’s last remaining processing shop, in Parsons (Kansas), closed its doors in 2009. A J Sulzberger wrote about it for the New York Times and now Mark Raso has made a movie inspired by the epochal event. An internationally acclaimed photographer, Ben Ryder (Ed Harris), is dying with liver cancer. His estranged son, Matt (Jason Sudeikis), is on the verge of being sacked by the New York record company for which he has been a long-term talent scout and agent. He is at first unmoved when Ben’s carer, Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen), asks him to join her and his father on road trip to Parsons so that four rolls of film that Ben has hung on to can be developed before the service is terminated. Rapprochement, redemption and romance – you know what you are going to get here, but the bleedin’ obvious can still work if delivered with sincerity and love. The problem for Matt and the viewer is that the obnoxious old bloke is extremely dislikeable. Rude, selfish and crude, the character arc that might lead Ben to be forgiven for his nasty ways is a steep one, but Harris pulls it off – but only just. Sudeikis convinces with the filial affection he is able to find for his irascible Old Man, while Olsen is a delight throughout, bringing essential warmth to a scenario that might have been consumed by bitterness and resentment. The question of Art, as pursued by both men in their respective careers, is fleetingly dealt with, but it’s not until the end credits are rolling that photography’s unique ability to help us see the world with fresh eyes is exposed. Shot on Kodachrome 35 mill, it gets better the longer it goes.

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