Larry (Larry Lewis Jr.), a blind man goes on a quest for justice for his murdered jujitsu instructor, Darren (Darren Branch).
Sometimes, a movie you know isn’t perfect still speaks to your soul. Usually, these are sweet, sentimental pictures that tug at your heartstrings in some unquantifiable way. In the case of Kitao Sakurai’s Aardvark, what sticks with me is not its dark heart or occasional tinges of saccharin goodness, but rather its unique structure and subject matter.
Advertised as the first film to have a blind-from-birth leading man, Aardvark simmers with tension when Larry (Larry Lewis Jr.) discovers (with his walking cane) the corpse of his friend and jujitsu teacher, Darren (Darren Branch). Candy (Jessica Elizabeth Cole), a nightclub dancer and mutual acquaintance of Larry and Darren, leads Larry on a quest to find Darren’s killer in an underworld we only see the fringes of. I guess this is part of why this film fascinated me so; it leaves a lot up in the air, in a good way. We only come to realize what kind of organization Darren was involved in towards the finale, but Larry’s connection to him and his emotionally-driven quest for justice is our hook.
Lewis Jr. makes us feel for Larry even though his eyes can’t be effective emotional communicators. His physicality, especially in the jujitsu scenes, evokes a lonely man, someone who’s finally beginning to open up to life’s possibilities. Darren Branch gives a top-shelf performance, hinting at extreme paranoia and near-insanity. The passion with which these two act makes perfect sense when you consider that the film’s story is partially based on their lives.
Aardvark is somewhat messy and perhaps too artsy at times. But the way I can’t stop thinking about it and the sensitive kind of filmmaking it displays make it much more than the sum of its parts in my mind.