NYAFF Capsule Review: Nowhere Girl


New York Asian Film Festival co-programmer Samuel Jamier has a tendency to describe films as “interesting,” and he will sometimes say the word five times in half as many minutes when introducing them. He didn’t describe Nowhere Girl as interesting, which is a shame, because “interesting” is the best possible word he could have used to describe it. Instead, he said it was “really weird” (also accurate), featured a “badass girl” (hard to disagree there), and involved the military in some way (yep). This is the man best known for directing the Ghost in the Shell anime, and that shows through in the film, to the extent where the film’s final sequences yearned for a 2D aesthetic.

A friend of mine walked out of the screening. He was planning on it so he could catch an earlier train, but he left before he needed to. He sent me a text, “Just go home. It sucks.” I didn’t have my phone on, but even if I had, I wouldn’t have left. Its very particular aesthetic had an alluring quality, and I had my suspicions about what the entire thing was trying to represent. I wanted to see if I was right.

I was, and that’s a good thing. Usually I’m looking for films to subvert my expectations, but here a subversion here would have undermined the impact of a film that is ultimately about a character’s fractured psyche. This is a film that delves into the mind of a young woman broken by post-traumatic stress disorder, and it shows both how she is affected and how the people around her treat her. And when things turn—in a fascinating action sequence that is further evidence that the Japanese film industry needs to have an intervention over its use of CG blood splatters—it fits with everything the film had built up to. It’s a film clearly held back by a low budget and/or a terrible VFX team, and I can’t help but think that it would be been better as an anime, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a success. 

Nowhere Girl (Tōkyō Mukokuseki Shōjo | 東京無国籍少女)
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Country: Japan