Review: The Joshua Tapes

Review by Aidila Razak

Upon hearing a short synopsis of currently running local film The Joshua Tapes, my friend asked, “Let me guess, there’s an Ali, a Muthu and an Ah Chong?”

My answer: “Yes, although the Muthu is a Muthu-Ah Chong hybrid…” and just as she started to roll her eyes, I said, “But it’s quite believable lah…” and we looked around our group of friends and realised that you don’t have to go out of your way to be 1Malaysia.

And in this respect, The Joshua Tapes (from the people behind S’kali) has a somewhat believable set up– a group of school friends, coincidentally from different ethnic backgrounds, on a road trip that would help them examine their friendship, and life, and love.

The idea is neither novel nor bizarre, and the obviously low-budget film does not pretend to be anything but a journey of three friends and for this it is somewhat successful.

Opening seven years prior to the trip, we get a sense of who Reza (Baki Zainal), Ajeet (Matthew Ho Tien Li), Ryan (Phoon Chi Ho) and Joshua (Alfred Loh) through Reza’s shaky video camera, and then quickly understand why the guy whose name is in the title is no where on the trip.

Much of the things that happen on the scenic trip to the East Coast is easy to swallow–the relationship, much the dialogue and most of the acting.

But some of the things which led to conflicts between the trio tend to confuse and may have needed more explaining, and in these scenes, the acting too seemed too strained.

And like many Malaysian ‘indie’ films, tighter editing could have saved many a restless sighs from the audience.

Director, UK-based Arivind Abraham, could have also put a bit more thought into the shots inside Reza’s four wheel drive, seeing that it is a road trip film after all.

Even films shot merely with a camera mounted on the dashboard, like Iran’s much celebrated Ten, proved to be less disorienting.

As well, it would have been nicer to see more of the scenic views of the trip. Most would have preferred it to larger than life close ups of the actors for many scenes on end.

Yet all the same, the movie ends beautifully and on a poignant note, leaving one hoping that the team makes more films which could live up to the promise that The Joshua Tapes was close to but did not fulfill.

The Joshua Tapes is currently showing at selected cinemas nationwide.