Toronto high-school student Hashi (newcomer Keigian Umi Tang) is mourning the loss of a close friend, Tess. She killed herself, and now Hashi cannot focus in class or outside the school’s walls. The teen starts stealing money from his peers and dreams of an escape from his lower middle-class life. As visions of Tess flood his head, the troubled teen tries to grapple with his own mortality.
The feature debut from Canadian director Randall Okita is a startling and absorbing drama. The Lockpicker captures the angst of a young man trying to figure out his life as he recovers from immense trauma. The camera rarely leaves the protagonist’s side, and slowly, Hashi’s fears become palpable and even unsettling. In his first performance, Tang capably anchors this heavy film on his shoulders, projecting rage and vulnerability. Okita’s decision to limit Hashi’s dialogue in the first third attaches us to the actor’s wavering moods and expressions. This deepens our interest as Hashi descends into hurt and heartbreak more violently.
The Lockpicker is harsh and harrowing. Audiences should be prepared for some uncompromising explorations of teenage insecurity. Manipulated audio (muffling and sharpening certain noises) and drowsy visuals masterfully bring us into Hashi’s state of mind. Tech triumphs aside, there are a few storytelling blips. For instance, there is too little about Hashi’s family life. The initial vagueness of these relationships eventually undercut plot developments in the final third.