This short film is also part of TIFF’s showcase of works featuring or produced by actress Kiki Sugino, and was screened along with “Magic & Loss.” Directed by Edmund Yeo, “Exhalation” explores the different ways people cope with loss.
Following the death of a close high school friend, Naoko (Kiki Sugino) travels back to her rural hometown the day before the funeral. She and her friend Sayuri end up going on a road trip and reminiscing over the loss. The dialogue is sparse but well written, easily conveying the awkwardness that’s grown between both Naoko and Sayuri since parting ways after graduation. Filmed partially in black-and-white, Yeo also does a good job of portraying the heavy atmosphere and feelings of detachment that often come with the untimely death of a loved one.
Less effective are the scenes filmed in color, or more specifically, the transition between them. It’s clear that Yeo wants to make a differentiation between them, but what exactly he’s directing our attention to is less so. Moreover, while emotionally poignant, certain moments within the short feel as if they’ve been plopped into the film out of nowhere—there’s a scene where Sayuri and Naoko find pieces of paper torn up and floating in a forest river. Why that particular scene is in color, compared to others that seem more worthy is somewhat baffling. It’s apparent that there’s some metaphors and symbolism thrown in here and there, but some scenes are definitely more effective than others. And the scenes that don’t work simply detract.
Overall, the resolution is a bit convenient and a tad cliché. There’s a million different films and shorts that tackle the theme of loss, grief and death; nothing said or shown in “Exhalation” is particularly mind-blowing or stands out in that regard.