Bokeh is a Netflix original science fiction film released in 2017. The film is directed by Geoffrey Orthwein and Andrew Sullivan and stars Matt O’Leary and Maika Monroe (It Follows, The 5th Wave and Independence Day: Resurgence). Virtually everyone else is an extra. The movie is rated TV-14. Click here for a detailed examination of the film’s rating.
I had never heard of the word bokeh before finding this movie and had no idea what it meant until doing research for this review. Bokeh is of Japanese origin and, according to Google, refers to “the visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image, especially as rendered by a particular lens.” In the film, Riley is a photographer and through much of the movie takes pictures of Jenai, beautiful Icelandic scenery, and around Reykjavik. Beyond that, the movie has spectacular cinematography.
The first act of the film establishes the love between Riley, played by Matt O’Leary, and Jenai, played by Maika Monroe. Unlike most science fiction movies their affection is established in ways more common to romance movies, with beautiful settings, glances, smiles, embraces and background music. At one point Riley says to Jenai, “We have everything we need.”
The second act begins with an abrupt end of music and change in sound. You know something bad has happened and quickly learn that everyone else has disappeared. That isn’t a spoiler it’s revealed in the trailer.
The problem I had with the film is the second act never really ends. The movie explores the way the two characters react to the situation. Riley is the romantic, who believes they have a beautiful world to use and explore, while Jenai is a pragmatist and wonders how they will survive. A third character is briefly brought in to provide for a more philosophical discussion. Is there a plan to life or is this all just chance?
Bokeh gives Riley and Jenai the world, but are two people enough to make a life? Do we need those connections with family and friends? Most people would never explore such questions, but Riley and Jenai must.
I kept expecting a final twist of the plot, or some climactic end. It didn’t happen. This is not your traditional science fiction film, but if you like slower movies that explore the human condition Bokeh might be for you. If that is the case, and you have Netflix, check it out. Recommendation: Watch on cable.