BAG MAN is the understated story of a 12 year old boy, who takes us on an introspective journey out of the city and into the remote countryside of upstate New York. With a mysterious duffle...
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Dennis A. Liu
John Di Domenico
BAG MAN is the understated story of a 12 year old boy, who takes us on an introspective journey out of the city and into the remote countryside of upstate New York. With a mysterious duffle bag in hand, its contents unknown to us, we journey from the urban hustle of Harlem, into the winter-ravaged woodlands a world away. On the road, we slowly discover his real intentions, and the significance of what is hidden inside a young boy's bag.
Intriguing – which is the film's key selling point
A young boy gets woken up by his mother as she heads to work from their home in Harlem. Heading out for the day with a duffel bag, the boy is approached by a hustler looking to employ him, but continues on his way to the train station. Heading out of the city with his bag, the boy starts walking out into the countryside, through ruined buildings and rolling landscapes. And that is about as much as I want to say on this, and the reason for that is that the fact you are not sure where this is going is perhaps the main pleasure of it.
In terms of narrative it will leave you with more questions than answers, and to be honest there is not too much of an actual plot here, more just playing with the viewer by giving us several films we didn't expect on the way. It is beautifully shot and paced though; it goes for half the running time without really doing much but following our silent character, but yet it still engages and draws us in, whether it is the one-sided conversation with the hustler, or just beautiful steadicam shots following the character through rusting barns and down a train line. The music play into this by being patient and reflective. When the developments come they are a surprise and quickly lead to more which are impressive technically but also engaging from a narrative point of view. It must be said that the film does rather drop its effects and narrative on the viewer for impact, then gets out the door; it is hard not to see this for what it is, and you do need to forgive it for drawing you in with a rather measured tone, twisting it, then ending on the same measured tone. Were it a blockbuster it would be called out for style over substance, but to do that here is to do a disservice to how well it draws you in.
As such it is the sense of intrigue that is what makes this work as well as it does. Everything else is built around that – cinematography, the plot, the music, everything. As a result the level of intrigue is likely to leave the payoff not quite up to the job, but for me it worked on the basis of what it did well.
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