Review: SHE’S JUST A SHADOW Has A Solid Film Buried Beneath Its Layers Of Sex And Nudity

FIRST IMPRESSION

She's Just a Shadow is a compelling crime thriller, but it is so excessively sexual that you are unable to get fully drawn into the story and its world.
Writing
Directing
Acting
Technical Merit

She’s Just a Shadow, written and directed by Adam Sherman, is a new hyper-stylized crime-thriller told with obvious admiration for the neo-noir genre. However, despite a wealth of great ideas, the film never comes together in a satisfying whole, ultimately feeling rather underdeveloped and underwhelming.

Perhaps the single biggest issue with this movie is its aggressive sexualization of its female characters to the point of misogyny. Granted, you would expect a film set in the sex trafficking world to be highly sexual, but She’s Just a Shadow takes it to the extreme. A solid eighty percent or more of the movie features shots of naked women, more often than not without reason, which is absolutely ridiculous. Had the explicit content in the film been toned down, it likely would have been legitimately great.

The core story of the movie, a sprawling crime saga detailing the different members of a Japanese crime family, is truly interesting, hence why it is so disappointing that the story is buried beneath so many layers of sexuality and misogyny. For example, there is one storyline following a character who hopes to escape the family which is extremely compelling.

However, there is one subplot that is somewhat baffling. The primary antagonist of the film is a serial killer who ties his victims to a train track and commits indecent actions as he watches them die. Not only is this storyline thoroughly disgusting, it also makes absolutely no sense. Furthermore, the way in which it is tied into the main storyline is contrived and basic. This part of the movie seems entirely misguided and drags down what is otherwise a mostly interesting script.

she's just a shadow blood

Additionally, the film fails to explore the themes that it introduces in a way that is satisfying and adequately deep. One motif that is discussed in the movie frequently is the shadow, but the film never settles on what it wants you to get from that symbol. Each time a shadow is brought up, it seems to represent a different thing. Maybe Sherman is trying to riff on the ways in which shadows are constantly changing, but this does not come through if so.

The actors try their hardest in their roles, but being that the characters are so overly sexualized, it is hard to take them seriously. You can’t help but feel bad for the actresses who were cast in this movie, as they are given very little to do other than act scared or flirt around while naked. The male actors are given little to do except to act high and ogle the women.

It is on a technical level that the film is most successful, as Sherman is a stylized and ambitious director, but even the cinematography is ruined by the way in which the camera objectifies the bodies of the actresses. The only parts of the movie that aren’t held back by sexuality are the few action sequences, which are admirably fun and over-the-top.

She’s Just a Shadow doesn’t have a bad script. Instead, it is the direction, shot with an overwhelming male gaze, that makes this film so frustrating. If Sherman had simply shot the movie with fewer nude bodies in the background (or preferably none), it would have been significantly better. Instead, this feels like a prolonged version of the obligatory strip club scene in every schlocky action movie.

She’s Just a Shadow hits theaters and VOD on July 19.

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Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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