Mattie Do / 2019 / Laos / 116 minutes
The storyline of The Long Walk is interesting and enticing. An old man (Yannawoutthi Chanthalungsy) who lives a reclusive life in a village in Laos finds a car crash victim at the side of a road. The trauma of this provides a connection that can transport the man 50 years in the past, where he can connect to his own personal trauma and come to terms with his own mother’s death. Here we see a ghostly silent woman connect with a young boy (Por Silatsa) in a location where science-fiction and the supernatural combine.
The people in this near-future science-fiction world have micro-chips in their forearms. When they want to make a financial transaction they use the chips, where information appears on their arms, like tattoos that only last a few moments. This motif in the film ensures that the viewer knows they are in a fantasy setting. The arm microchips are the only instance of this technology, though. The rest of the time we appear to be in a village that lacks electricity and relies on the tourist industry for money. Advanced technology feels like an underused element and greater focus on the science-fiction component would have created a more vivid and involving film.
The mute dead woman feels a constant presence. She acts as a companion to the small boy, especially as his home life is so traumatic and difficult. At times, The Long Walk veers towards horror. Death and ghosts always seem present and this creates a psychological tension between the young boy and the ghostly woman. Director Mattie Do uses this tautness to her advantage and you get the feeling this tension could break at any point and put the child at great danger.
The Long Walk is a slow-paced film in which the story reveals itself gradually. This is frustrating at times, as the characters and location seem to be keeping too much from the audience. The science-fiction and supernatural elements of the film feel unexplored and allude to a larger world that we do not get to experience. Instead, we witness scenes that do little to move the story forward and linger on the mundane. We see the people of the village at work, but we rarely we see them reacting to the technology and fantasy world that they inhabit. The Long Walk fittingly screened as part of the Future Cult strand at the Glasgow Film Festival 2020, as the film definitely has a cult and futuristic feel to it.