Plot: On a small, remote island in an archipelago, life moves at a slower pace than most of the world and a simpler ways remain intact, which can make life tough for the lone residents, but they seem content. A couple raises their two sons on the island and with no one else around, it means even all four have great responsibilities to ensure their way of life is maintained. As there is no running water on the island, the family must collect fresh water to drink and to irrigate their crops with, which means a journey to a nearby island to collect the water in buckets. This trek is hard and laborious, but survival depends on hydration and being able to raise crops for food, so this is a cycle they embark upon often. But as the family goes through the repetition of their daily cycles, what happens when unexpected events transpire?
Entertainment Value: If you went into The Naked Island and didn’t know otherwise, you might mistake this for a documentary, as it feels so real and believable, but it is indeed a dramatic effort. The movie has almost no dialogue, but tracks a narrative of sorts nonetheless, as we observe the various cycles that make up the lives of a family on the isolated island. The stories of the family members are simple and rooted in basic activities, so there is no melodrama and few unexpected moments, elements that are likely to scare off some viewers. I think the beautiful visuals help to compensate for the lack of traditional narrative, but I can see how the glacial pace and passive experience could throw some folks off.
The pace is an issue, but for The Naked Island to present the slice of life it seeks, the pace has to be slow and passive. This is about realism and the natural flow of life on the island, down to the tedious, repetitive nature of the family’s life there, so a brisker pace would have felt off. The daily grind is the focus and seeing how much time and effort go into the basic needs of the family is remarkable, while the pace also means when an event happens that breaks the repetition, it causes quite an impact or at least it does for a time. If you struggle with the slow pace and lack of kinetic elements, try to experience it as a documentary, a cross section of real life in a beautiful, but demanding locale and how this family copes with the unique requirements involved. The Naked Island is hard to recommend in most cases, but those who appreciate realism and beautiful, if tedious looks at life should give it a spin.