Nounen Rena (Credited as Non) returns with her sophomore feature, writing, directing, and starring in Ribbon, a coming-of-age, Covid-set communion with the precipitate anxieties that lockdown wrought in what could be regarded as a stagflation that swaps economy with temporality. We follow Non’s Itsuka Asakawa as she, like everyone else, is thrust out of routine — specifically for her, art school, and close to the end of her term at that — and thronged into a lowly apartment equipped with miscellaneous supplies, most importantly ribbon, for the foreseeable duration of isolation. It’s a haphazard narrative built on platitudinous expressions of immediacy, ebbing and flowing through repetitive sentiments that meagrely question if we, in fact, have any agency at all. The work utilizes surreal flourishes to invoke gauche symbolism, which ultimately reduces and infantilizes those complex mediations of agency it so tepidly begins to seek intrigue in.
CGI’d ribbon snakes through the air, choreographed to perform indexical emotionality, predictably unfurled during the conclusion of sequences that concern Itsuka’s relationships: to her mother, her father, her sister, her friend. And this is the epitome of the film’s failures: its stilted edit moves incautiously through unthoughtful coverage, assembling a chronology of conflict and resolution that ultimately abbreviates woes and instigates the very temporal abstraction that the thematic core of the work seems intent on confronting. It’s all a bit confounding and more than a little frustrating. More generously, this is perhaps the first Covid film that actually begins to exhume substantial implications of lockdown, but the film seems more intent on the solipsistic character work being done, sidelining the provocations that linger and ultimately letting them fade into the background.
Published as part of New York Asian Film Festival 2022 — Dispatch 1.