NEW TO VOD! According to Hillary Clinton, she spent the summer of 1969 working her way across Alaska before starting her law education at Yale. One of these jobs was sliming salmon in a fish cannery, but when she complained about the hazardous conditions in the factory, she was promptly fired. Directors Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak have used that unverified time in the politician’s life as the subject for their fictional biopic When I’m a Moth. It’s exactly as interesting as it sounds.
Young Hillary (Addison Timlin) spends the majority of her time in Valdez, Alaska, elbow-deep in fish guts with no life outside of work. On her way home every day, she walks past two silent Japanese men, the older Mitsuru (Toshiji Takeshima) and Ryohei (TJ Kayama), who is about her age. Out of curiosity, she talks to them one day, and they get drunk together. Soon they’re buddy-buddy, drinking regularly, all the while Hillary and Ryohei find themselves drawn to each other for what can only be a doomed relationship.
“…[Hillary Clinton] spent the summer of 1969 working her way across Alaska…sliming salmon in a fish cannery…”
You know how comedies mock art films with actors stiffly reciting dialog with long pauses between lines? When I’m a Moth is that movie. It’s difficult to determine whether Timlin’s aggravated rigidity is intentional or if she just can’t act. Kayama keeps his sulk factor turned up to Robert Pattinson eleven and doesn’t budge. They have long, boring conversations about nothing, and neither of them has enough personality or likeability to make the audience care. There isn’t even any artful nudity to make it appealing on that level. You’re better off stubbing your toe on a door frame because at least then you’ll feel something.
The one thing the drama has going for it is beautiful photography. The shots are so well-composed they rope you in and keep you interested until you realize you’re halfway through and don’t care about anything that’s happened so far. Of course, this is an art film, which calls for a few purposely out-of-focus images, but they aren’t enough to ruin the single redeemable quality that keeps the movie from being a completely putrid bucket of salmon innards.
Every so often, a motion picture comes around that’s so dreadful you wonder what prompted anyone to want to waste their time making it and your time watching it to such a degree. When I’m a Moth holds that dubious distinction. Whether you’re a huge Hillary Clinton fan or just interested in independent cinema, you can find something better to watch.
When I’m a Moth screened at the 2019 San Francisco Film Festival.
"…beautiful photography. The shots are so well-composed they rope you in..."