“Kyoshi Kurosawa’s first feature film in five years (last year’s Penance was a 5 hour TV series) starts as a love story,” begins Dan Fainaru in Screen Daily, “goes on as the mystery thriller surrounding the attempted suicide of an artist who couldn’t cope with reality outside the manga series she has been designing and ends as Freudian dip into childhood memories with a touch of Jurassic Park in it. All of this is wrapped into a kind of fancy neurological experiment called ‘sensing,’ which is supposed to offer the possibility of communicating with the subconscious of a comatose mind.”
For Maggie Lee, writing for Variety, Real finds Kurosawa “at his least disturbing or mesmerizing. Although the aesthetics retain the Nipponese horror maestro’s trademark haunting quality, the yarn’s U-turn from psycho-horror to hokey childlike fable is unexpected and disappointing. As the plot drifts toward incoherence and pivotal twists fail to deliver on their promise, the pic seems to be stumbling its way through adjoining rooms with no exit in sight.”
“While the story begins like a routine combination of science fiction ingredients, by the time it turns into a CGI-spiked riff on Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound, it’s hard not to get pulled into the stakes of the characters’ abstract battle,” writes Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn. “The special effects are impressively realized to a point that strengthens the movie’s surreal depiction of psychological turmoil. Even so, they lack any real sense of peril, as Kurosawa’s curiously plain style hold back the thrilling potential of the outlandish events he depicts.”
Update, 8/18: Laya Maheshwari, writing for Criticwire, attended a conversation between Kurosawa and Shinji Aoyama, whose Backwater was also competing in Locarno. Maheshwari did not expect that “the discussion to turn into a heated debate about the plot of the Tom Cruise-starrer Oblivion. And I certainly did not expect that debate to unearth some uncomfortable but pertinent truths about Hollywood.”
Update, 8/20: “Though [Real] offers a lot of twists over its two-hour running time,” writes Boyd van Hoeij in the Hollywood Reporter, “Kurosawa struggles to create something that’s tonally coherent, though the finely chiseled performances and carefully lit visuals are always elegant and do rather niftily instill a false sense of security that’ll violently come undone in the final reel.”
Updates, 9/7: “Unfortunately,” writes Twitch‘s Todd Brown, Kurosawa “happens to tell this story just a year after Lithuania’s Kristina Buozyte tackled the exact same premise with her astonishing Vanishing Waves. Even more unfortunately, Kurosawa’s film isn’t nearly as good.”
At the AV Club, Ben Kenigsberg finds Real to be “an unsatisfying, shamelessly derivative mix of elements from Inception, Flatliners, and Shutter Island.”
Update, 9/14: “The problem, as is often the case with a premise founded on misdirection, is one of explication,” writes Calum Marsh at Film.com. “A mid-film twist doesn’t so much pull the rug out from under you as it does roll you up in it and push you off a cliff. Revelations stack and topple. By the end of its second act, the film has so thoroughly exhausted the goodwill of a patient audience that any interest in plot must be jettisoned to even enjoy the aesthetics.”
I can't top this. RT @Astrostic: Real: INEPTION.
— Mike D'Angelo (@gemko) September 14, 2013
2013 Indexes: Locarno and Toronto. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @KeyframeDaily on Twitter and/or the RSS feed. Get Keyframe Daily in your inbox by signing in at fandor.com/daily.