When we heard a feature shot in Japan titled blood would play at Sundance, images of ridiculous J-horrors like Tag (2015) came to mind. This blood (yes, lowercase b), however, is the opposite of those, offering Sundancers a pleasant experience, a bit of quietude and a more natural feel.
During the Q&A session, director Bradley Rust Gray told viewers blood actually received its title from a dream the actress who was originally intended for its starring role told him about. Gray said he liked the sound of the word and thought of it in the way someone might consider a song title, which doesn’t necessarily have to relate to the content of the work.
Given that dreams are a focus of the film, it also seems right after hearing that story.
Chloe (Carla Juri), grieving from her husband Peter’s (Gustaf Skarsgård) death, comes to Japan to photograph people engaged in their passions, from lobster fishing to repairing broken pottery. She travels all over, by land, by water, to restaurants, and even to a volcano. Japanophiles and anyone with wanderlust may revel in the sights. Chloe shares the journey with others, including dance teacher Chieko (Chieko Ito); discerning yet at times goofy translator Yatsuro (Issei Ogata); her husband’s scruffy haired friend Toshi (Takashi Ueno); Toshi’s mother and daughter, who has Down’s syndrome and Futaba “Fu-chan,” (Futaba Okazaki) who is adorable and offers some much needed levity.
A potential romance blossoms between Chloe and Toshi, who provides a place for her to stay during her trip. Peter comes and goes throughout the film through flashbacks, as does Chloe’s grief over him. We also go into Chloe’s dreams, revealing her thoughts on Toshi. Transitions between the present, the past and her dreams are done almost seamlessly. Scenes with Peter were filmed in Iceland, offering a contrast between present and past by landscape.
Unfortunately, we don’t find many answers to some obvious questions that come up. blood gives us information on Chloe and others by the slice, never the whole pie.
The natural feel is partially due to what Juri called the “invisible camera” during the Q&A. Often, the camera was operated far from the actors, and Juri sometimes didn’t even notice it was shooting. Instead of Gray directing actors on where to move, the camera followed them.
Scenes at Toshi’s are actually in Ueno’s home.
When asked in the Q&A about his experience in the film, Ueno said “It was like a dream to me.”
Read all of Salt Lake magazine’s 2022 Sundance reviews.