Jun and Me, is a poetic, and slightly over-ambitious meditation on life, and consciousness by debut director and writer Kendall M Williams. The film is semi-autobiographical, as he pours his knowledge of philosophy, mathematics, as well as his frustrations and disappointments with life, including those of a foreigner in Tokyo. The short 17 minute story leaves the audience equally frustrated as the credits roll, but both images and themes from the film stick, and leave viewers with much to ponder.
The basic story outline goes: Mark is a disillusioned photographer living in Tokyo, dragging himself through a meaningless, “not much” life, and battling chronic insomnia. A concerned coworker offers him a special, prescription sleeping pill that puts Mark into a long dream-state. Within this dream, a girl rises from his consciousness to try and repair his grey perspective on life.
For Williams, perspective, and happiness are the important themes of the film: “You can’t look externally for happiness. Some of us look to the future, and some of us to the past, we forget about the now, that’s right here, and constantly changing.”
Philosophy and mathematics simmer beneath each shot, and the film leaves some clues for viewers to unravel. Chapter headings refer to the Illuminati; the name of the pill Mark takes is Gnosis, Greek for “knowledge of spiritual mysteries”. During the central scene of the film, Mark enters a masquerade club. A dance begins, of masked women in a circle, around one, who will we learn is Jun, who beckons Mark to join their divine triangle. Later, when she meets Mark again, she greets him with, “Do what thou wilt.”.
Jun, who represents so much in this film, falls short of her potential as a character, which the director himself admits. She has very little dialogue in the film, and much of the work she does to fix Mark is shown in a sequence of gorgeously composed shots, with Mark’s voice over.
All films are difficult to make, but for Jun and Me, budgeting and scheduling restraints hobbled production. Many shots were made in one take, though Williams’ strengths as a cinematographer ensure Jun and Me is visually striking. The audience is presented with more information than can be easily absorbed in one sitting. However, as with Terrence Malick films, stories are not always meant to be easily digested on first viewing.
It is disappointing that Williams’ grand vision could not be more fully realised, however, for an ambitious directorial debut the result is worth watching, and cheering on as it takes its next steps into the short film festival circuit.