20 Aug 2021
Yuyu Kitamura, Haley Wong
Japanese, New York based actor-poet Yuyu Kitamura marks her directorial debut with Invited In, an excellent (and timely) commentary on some of the hard truths which lie behind the allure of social media.
Emmy (Haley Wong) is a popular Vlogger who turns the unexpected disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic to her advantage by launching a series of videos following her life in lockdown. Emmy’s exploits soon catch the attention of her former acquaintance – the lonely, isolated and friendless Annie (Kitamura). After reaching out to her old friend, now YouTube’s friendliest superstar, the pair soon reconnect, and a close bond develops behind the barriers of lockdown. However, away from Emmy’s scores of subscribers, Annie discovers that things are not what they appear to be…
In her first short as director, Kitamura (also the film’s writer) delivers a slick, sophisticated slice of filmmaking which invites us all to face an uncomfortable reality: that this age of instant connection, with the mere click of a button, belies the fact that, often, real connection isn’t there at all. Emmy has become an online sensation with her daily videos to followers urging them to “be authentically you”. Annie soon unpicks that much of the seemingly ultra-confident Emmy’s own authenticity is in question and it’s this paradox that lies at the heart of Invited In. It’s a simple yet sombre message that’s pitched perfectly by Kitamura who, wisely, avoids heavy handling of the pandemic and delicately utilises the context to tell a great story. Kitamura and Wong are excellent in their roles; most of the film’s action is captured as real online video calls and, fortunately, the performances of the two stars are certainly authentic which, together with Kitamura’s assured direction, help to make Invited In one of the best and most rewarding short films to watch at this time.
The closure of Invited In, indeed, does invite us to ask big questions. Is Annie about to overcome her shyness and find her voice through the open world of vlogs and all things viral? Will she blossom into the truly authentic online presence that Emmy could never be? Or is she on the verge of taking the first steps down the same slippery path as her friend? It’s a masterful ending from Kitamura which punctuates a great short film that will certainly stand out in the beginning of her career as a promising writer and director.