I WOULD HAVE SWORN Man from Reno was adapted from a book. But it wasn't. It's an original screenplay—from director Dave Boyle and co-writers Joel Clark and Michael Lerman—that feels as thorough and intricate as a thick novel. The characters are so lived-in and real, it's a surprise to realize they haven't existed anywhere before appearing here, on the screen in front of you. Told half in English and half in Japanese, it's a film noir, of sorts, that builds to a fitting conclusion, but eschews any sort of resolution. It's a mystery that doesn't end when the movie does.
That mystery—at the center of Man from Reno—drives the plot, and it includes murder, stolen identities, the paparazzi, an old head of lettuce, and rare imported reptiles. Like any good mystery, experiencing it isn't about solving the case but in observing where the crime puts the players. Aki (Ayako Fujitani) is a well-known novelist hiding out in a San Francisco hotel. The hotel is a vaguely unreal place, a desperate purgatory concealed by its tasteful, elegant décor, and Aki embarks on a similarly desperate one-night stand with a man (Kazuki Kitamura) she meets in the hotel bar. He disappears the next day, but leaves a suitcase behind.
Paul Del Moral (Pepe Serna) is the sheriff of the nearby (and fictitious) San Marco County. He's also looking for a missing person—a man who leapt in front of his patrol car, then vanished back into the thick coastal fog. Paul's and Aki's plots intertwine and connect in riveting ways, but Boyle is more interested in how these two people, so different superficially, deal with a series of events that appear irrational, almost impossible. Man from Reno doesn't let its audience off the hook, even when the credits roll.
DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS—An earlier version of this review misstated Man from Reno's opening date as Friday, April 17. The film's release has been delayed until Friday, April 24.