The Laotian drama “The Long Walk” takes a languid look around a near-future dystopia where fighter jets leave trails of smoke in the skies and government agencies track missing people using microchips embedded in their bodies. In this reality, a spiritual, occult world exists under the noses of officials.
The film follows an unnamed protagonist (Yannawoutthi Chanthalungsy), an isolated elderly man known by the people of his town as one who can communicate with the dead and find missing persons.
But what the medium’s clients don’t know is that he also helps women who are sick and desperate for relief from life’s rigors to ease their own death. When a young woman (Vilouna Phetmany) seeks him for guidance in finding her missing mother, she is unaware that the body he is leading her to is one he buried himself.
The hermit travels along the road that connects life and death, accompanied by ghosts and possessed of powers that allow him to visit and possibly change his own past. But despite the high concepts that define the film’s story, the writer and director, Mattie Do, does not overload the film with exposition or explanation.
She slows down and pauses to watch the moist air interact with the smoke from the shaman’s vape pen. The atmosphere here is dense with textural details and requires patience to sift through the layers of meaning packed into each frame. The reward for waiting for the fog to lift is a film that presents a unique take on science fiction, one that seeks out the ghosts that linger in a world shaped by technology.
The long walk
Not judged. In Lao, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes. Rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV providers.