Agreeable if finally unsatisfying tale.

Exhibiting the virtues and pitfalls of shooting improv-based drama with non-pro actors, musicvid helmer Mike Ott’s sophomore feature, “Littlerock,” tracks the moderately eventful repercussions when two young Japanese tourists land in a Southern California desert hamlet. Agreeable if finally unsatisfying tale is too slight to attract much commercial attention, but should prime interest in the writer-director’s future moves as a solid fest item.

Siblings Atsuko (Atsuko Okatsuka) and Rintaro (Rintaro Sawamoto) are on a U.S. vacation that, we eventually glean, is partly an escape from parental troubles back home. Rental-car failure strands them in the titular burg on L.A. County’s dustiest outskirts. At first bored to death, Atsuko soon warms to being the cute new girl in town, actively pursuing Jordan (Brett L. Tinnes) while stringing along desperate-to-please Cory (Cory Zacharia), who is ridiculed by peers for his model/artist aspirations and tendency to borrow money he can’t repay. Perfs are naturalistic, with the leads playing themselves, more or less. Well-crafted pic has a nice sense of place and rudderless youth, though in the end, simply too little happens for the story to have much resonance.

Littlerock

Production

Produced by Frederick Fulton, Henry Thornton, Sierra Leoni. Executive producer, Hsin-Fang Li. Directed by Mike Ott. Screenplay, Ott, from a story by Ott, Atsuko Okatsuka, Carl McLaughlin.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Carl McLaughlin; editor, David Nordstrom; music, the Cave Singers. Reviewed at San Francisco Film Festival (Cinema by the Bay), April 26, 2010. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

(English, Japanese dialogue)
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