FANTASIA FEST 2021: ‘Follow the Light’ Gives Hope

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Follow the Light

A crop circle as a point of storytelling just works, and sometimes, in ways, you don’t expect it to. Directed by Yoichi Narita and co-written by Narita and Yû SakudôFollow the Light (Hikari wo Oikakete) is a complex coming-of-age story that uses hints of science fiction to drive its characters closer to understanding each other and themselves. Screening at Fantasia Fest’s 25th Anniversary, the film stars Tsubasa Nakagawa and Itsuki Nagasawa as our young leads Akira and Maki, respectively.

Follow the Light takes place in the Japanese countryside in a village that everyone is leaving. Fading quickly due to the lack of in-demand agriculture and opportunities in the city, the local school is set to be closed. Without enough students, there isn’t a need for a school, which doesn’t bode well for Akira, the newest student in the town. Having recently arrived from Tokyo with his now divorced father, Akira escapes into art. He’s shy, he’s silent, and he hopes a meteor will crash into the world. When a couple of his classmates notice his talent, they ask for his help in making the school’s mural before the closing day ceremony. But this movie isn’t bout his art. It’s about the crop circle and the girl connected to it.

One day on his way home, Akira sees Maki on the roof of a farm and becomes fascinated by her, even if she did leave the school for mysterious reasons. Later, while with a friend, Akira witnesses the strange appearance of green lights over the rice fields. Choosing to follow the light in the sky, Akira discovers a crop circle and Maki lying inside of it. Joined by this mysterious occurrence and the promise to keep it secret from the rest of the town, Akira and Maki become fast friends.

Follow the Light is a stunning shot film that embraces the heart of science fiction without the over-the-top visuals of the genre. As a feature debut, Narita manages to capture the hope that science fiction creates both in its grand moments like UFOs approaching us in the sky and the small ones, like the crop circles they leave behind. Instead of showing us the lights, we see them through the eyes of the characters watching. Somehow, through them, the momentous nature of the events seems even larger than if we had been shown the lights floating in the sky. But beyond that, we see the impact of it all, and that’s the most important part.

Additionally, Nagasawa and Nakagawa’s performances are breathtaking. While many coming-of-age fixate on showcasing the moments when childhood turns into adulthood, Follow the Light isn’t about growing up so much as it’s about dealing with the moments that will take our childhood away and still remaining in awe of them. The weight of the impending school closure is felt throughout the entire film, and while Akira and Maki are our protagonists, their burdens are echoed in small does in the other students.

What Follow the Light does well, very well, in fact, is keeping these characters’ children. They worry about things children worry about, they cry, they confront bullies, and they just want to hold it all together, even if the adults aren’t sure of what to do either. Through their eyes, we get to see what mysteries can do best, give hope to the future.

Follow the Light is screening at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2021.

Follow the Light
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

What Follow the Light does well, very well in fact, is keeping these characters children. They worry about things children worry about, they cry, they confront bullies, and they just want to hold it all together, even if the adults aren’t sure of what to do either. Through their eyes we get to see what mysteries can do best, give hope to the future.