Naz Kawakami stars as a fictionalised version of himself – a young radio host living in a small town in Hawaii. Naz and his girlfriend, Sloane (Rina White), plan on travelling 4,899 miles from their hometown to New York due to Sloane being accepted into an art program. Naz is determined to make the move but his conflicted feelings are everpresent throughout the film.
Browsing through the film selection for the Manchester Film Festival, I was drawn to the synopsis of Everyday in Kaimuki. In September, I moved across cities so I felt as though a coming-of-age film centering around the protagonist would be relatable.
Kawakami showed himself to be an effective leading man. The audience could sense his wide range of emotions through his facial expressions and line delivery. Kawakami made it explicit that Naz was longing to break away from the restraints of his hometown but at the same time, was dreading making such a life-changing decision.
The film is set in the background of post-pandemic life. Indeed, many characters are seen wearing masks and coronavirus is mentioned throughout. I liked how this topic was handled as it did not dominate over other featured themes.
The soundtrack spanning from Alex G to Lionel Boy coupled with scenes showing Naz and his friends skateboarding helped cement the film into the coming-of-age genre.
Naz’s frustration with the airline company as he tried to figure out their travel policies with pets was particularly funny as trying to navigate complicated travel requirements is something most people can relate to. Another scene I found particularly funny was when Naz was trying to buy a cat carrier and felt pressured into buying the more expensive of the options as the cheap would be an indication that he did not love his cat.
Now for the elements which left me underwhelmed. The whole relationship between Naz and Sloane was awkward. Their relationship was meant to be the driving force behind much of the plot but this was far from the case. Sloane’s character felt wasted. In her first few scenes, she’s not even awake. White’s delivery felt awkward. The film depicts the end of their relationship but even so, there is no chemistry between Kawamaki and White.
Furthermore, the supporting characters, especially the female characters, felt extremely two-dimensional. Naz’s group of friends were forgettable as all they did was skateboard and make an occasional remark on whether or not they believed Naz would actually move to New York. None of his friends had any defining quality – instead, they all felt like one big side character.
The only two prominent female characters were Jane (Lisette Marie Flanary) and Sloane. The former is a friend of Naz and we, as the audience, come to know very little about her. Sloane and Naz’s relationship was the biggest letdown. Their relationship was meant to be the driving force behind the plot but instead felt forced and awkward. In the first few scenes, featuring Sloane, we do not even hear her speak as she is sleeping by the time Naz comes back from work. When she does eventually speak, White’s delivery felt monotonous.
I understand that during the course of the film, Naz and Sloane’s relationship was dwindling but it felt as though there was no chemistry between the two. Even scenes that were meant to be intimate such as when the pair are laying in bed together and dancing in the living room felt uncomfortable to watch. We are very briefly introduced to Naz’s unnamed ex-girlfriend whose only purpose in the film was to talk to a drunk, ranting Naz and avoid his advances when he tried to kiss her.
With one hour and 20 minutes, the film had plenty of time to flesh out the side characters to make them more nuanced. This would in turn boost the core emotions of the film as we could have had a better understanding of Naz and his communities perception of moving.
Overall, Everyday in Kaimuki had potential, however, this was not fully utilised.