‘God Bless You’: A hastily made yet surprising debut

While you’d struggle to find anyone who feels nostalgic for the dog days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it spawned a variety of creative projects that seem unlikely to be repeated anytime soon. Such is the case with Keisuke Sakurai’s “God Bless You.” Finding themselves suddenly out of work, a trio of actor friends resolved to make a film together. First-time director Sakurai wrote a script in two days; the shoot started a couple of weeks later.

Movie productions don’t normally get off the ground so quickly, though it shows what’s possible when everyone’s schedule is wide open. Its hasty conception has resulted in a film that’s both uneven and highly distinctive, with the kind of febrile atmosphere that only tends to come when you shoot first and ask questions later. At the same time, it boasts a polished visual aesthetic, reflecting both the involvement of cinematographer Shintaro Teramoto (“Joint”) and Sakurai’s own background in photography.

Tatsuru Kobashikawa plays Shinji, a peroxided debt collector with a propensity for violence and substance abuse, who’s haunted by the death of his old sidekick. When his boss entrusts him with a new recruit, Shinji is unable to say no, though he’s equally determined not to forge an emotional connection with this unwanted underling.

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