Nothing is more hopeless than the liminal lighting which emanates from a local convenience store. Past the rows of endless confectionery goods, through the delectable selection of saturated potato chips, lies the misery of its existence. A store specifically designed to serve and attenuate the stress of its customers, the demand remains intact after years of continuous service. The 24-hour life-cycle of the aforementioned shops thrive in mystery; as the employees of these select locations rotate through an endless, improbable loop. In Satoshi Miki's latest venture into the hypnotic working-class underbelly of an outlandish convenience store, the adequately-titled ‘Convenience Story‘ prevails in the rich questioning of its core-subject. The film implements a dual-narrative with Japan's soul-consuming entertainment industry — as the film's down-beat protagonist aimlessly peruses the soft-drink stained-floors of a mystical shop.
Carrying over the same languid logic from his other confounding feature ‘Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers', Miki's metaphorical symbolism bombastically radiates past the film's derivative depictions. At its thematic crux is a satirically-rich thesis commenting on the appropriation of real-life tragedy within contemporary media. Miki's investigative lens instigates a demented parallel between the protagonist's internal screenwriting dilemmas and his involvement with an inter-dimensional convenience store. As the twists begin to amount from its refrigerated wasteland, more is slowly revealed about the eccentric owners and their desires. Miki paints his locations with intense colour saturation; a film oozing within the ugliness of the industrial in nearly every manufactured frame.
There's a somewhat riveting collision of ideas at-play between the desires of the film's pathetic screenwriter and his recollection of the working-class; only to be somewhat sacrificed by the self-gratification of Miki's obligatory surrealism. Convenience Story is staggeringly mean-spirited; a film enveloped within the meandering lore and absurdity of its archetypal characters. The film prioritises thinly-developed arcs for impact with its alluring messaging. Convenience Story‘s cast of characters are either naive, violent, or imprudent — causing endless repetition upon the film's admirable social-critique. The result is a tapestry of interwoven nonsense with a lack of human-heart. The film's charming imagery rarely captivates as a product of poor-taste, as the plethora of senseless stimulation drags Miki's creative vision.
Convenience Story is a promising showreel of Satoshi Miki's directorial achievements as a cinematic luminary — a film which doubles down on the heart once found in his relatively consistent filmography. There's almost a personal element buried deep within the film's third-act text; a rich thematic conclusion that effectively examines the instability and cruelty of the film-industry. Instead, Miki closes shop on a film rundown with artificial products and subplot-infestation; an admirable albeit disheartening blunder for fans of his pre-existing work.