Venice Film Festival Review: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s ‘Evil Does Not Exist’

Evil Does Not Exist Review - 2023 Ryûsuke Hamaguchi Movie Film

Vague Visages’ Evil Does Not Exist review contains minor spoilers. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s 2023 movie features Hitoshi Omika, Ayaka Shibutani and Rei Nishikawa. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.


The score for Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Evil Does Not Exist is sweeping, folding the audience into its overwhelming sound. As the film opens and the score builds, the director points the camera upwards, the web of twisted branches interlocked, forming a net to hold the grey-blue sky up; a beautiful embodiment of the music rolling through the speakers. All of a sudden, the score cuts out, replaced by silence and then the rustling of a young girl playing in the woods. It is a divisive choice, the kind that borders on obnoxious, appropriately upending the expected order and delivering something both gripping and slow, all-encompassing and reserved. As the village chief surmises: “balance is key.”

Evil Does Not Exist follows Takumi (Hitoshi Omika), a quiet odd-job man who lives in the woods of Mizubiki with his sweet, adventuruous daughter Hana (Ryô Nishikawa). Like everyone in the community, their lives are bound by the land they live on, constricted by the tendrils of life which clamp down and uplift. Following the protagonists’ lead, Hamaguchi centers the rhythms and texture of the wildlife, capturing how his main characters interact with the land, rather than the other way around. In a particularly lovely scene, Takumi calls for Hana before the camera passes behind a mound of earth. When Hamaguchi and cinematographer Yoshio Kitagawa dip around, Hana clings onto her father’s back — the people, the land and the camera, all perfectly in communion. 

Evil Does Not Exist Review: Related — Know the Cast: ‘Drive My Car’

Evil Does Not Exist Review - 2023 Ryûsuke Hamaguchi Movie Film

As the film’s title suggests, there is something nefarious ready to tip the scales. In Evil Does Not Exist, a glamping company is set to position Mizubiki as a tourist attraction for stressed out Tokyo-dwellers. The film’s centerpiece is a long and engrossing meeting between locals and a pair of ill-informed representatives (Ryûji Kosaka as Takahashi and Ayaka Shibutani as Mayuzumi) from the company set to build. Hamaguchi’s skill as a filmmaker is his ability to craft storylines that occur outside of the central plot, each character feeling inescapably human and developing in contradiction and conjunction (as people really do). All of Evil Does Not Exist’s climactic scenes take place with the understanding that this sense of importance isn’t concentrated in one place — it is dispersed and re-interpreted across everyone, both on and off screen. Throughout the film, there is a sense that the impending corporate doom is refracted across the community, ominously hanging over the young Hana’s life, driving her further and further into her imagination. 

Evil Does Not Exist Review: Related — Know the Cast & Characters: ‘Who Is Erin Carter?’

All of this is emblematic of Evil Does Not Exist’s underlying message: that the water, the life force, flows downhill, impacting those who need it most. As with every Hamaguchi project, this is never peddled heavy-handedly, instead it grows obvious, swelling in slight increments before it covers every image onscreen. In the final act, it becomes violently obvious, thrown under the garish winter light to unsettling effect. 

Evil Does Not Exist Review: Related — Soundtracks of Cinema: ‘Drive My Car’

In Rebecca Tamás’ essay “On Panpsychism,” the author recounts a time when swimming in the choppy waves of Galway Bay awoke her to an unspoken anxiety: “I crouch in the shower, shaking, old and new traumas swirled and spat out by the rough water. The thought has been wrestled out of me, vomited up onto the platform of my mind.” Similary, Hamaguchi’s characters have purposely blurred the relationship between the body and its environment (and between one another). The tension between all these figures prompts a sudden and ferocious outpouring that will cement Evil Does Not Exist as one of the most quietly stirring films of the year.

Anna McKibbin (@annarosemary) is a freelance film critic. She received a journalism MA from City University and specializes in pop culture. Anna has written for London Film School, Film Cred and We Love Cinema. 

Evil Does Not Exist Review: Related — Know the Cast & Characters: ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’