On paper, it's easy to see why 'Earthquake Bird' was made, and why it could have worked.
For one, it's an award-winning novel about murder, sexuality, psychology, all the things that make for a tawdry, stylish thriller. It stars Alicia Vikander, Riley Keough and Japanese hearthrob Naoki Kobayashi, and it's written and directed by indie auteur Wash Westmoreland. It has everything for it, yet getting through 'Earthquake Bird' proves a struggle and doesn't remotely come close to anything that could be considered satisfying.
There's endlessly long drawn out sequences where Alicia Vikander's character, an icy translator, seems utterly enamoured by Kobayashi's tall / dark / mysterious stranger, but it never comes out in any kind of meaningful way. Moreover, the lengths with which the movie goes to explain the cultural differences between them seems overbearing and very little of has any kind of weight. It's almost as if the movie is so internalised that none of it comes out. In other words, it works better as a novel where the internal monologue can be easily understood and allow for more subtlety, while a movie can't overplay its hand or it'll look coarse and obvious.
Vikander's performance, as with all of her work, is very considered and obvious. You can see she's walling herself off at every possible juncture, so that when the darkness in her character does break out, it becomes shocking. Likewise, Riely Keough's character does a good job of playing the seemingly vacuous American tourist who gets in the way of her relationship with Kobayashi's character. The story, of course, goes to obvious places and never really lands on any of them, instead drifting through without anything of impact to say.
There is a lot of thought put into the movie, though. The camera drinks in Japan without giving over to tropes like endless neon everywhere with 'Black Rain'-esque visuals (even though it's a Ridley Scott production and the movie features in the opening scene of it). Westmoreland's eye for creating intriguing visuals will probably keep you in your seat, but the story is so tiresome and needlessly drawn out that you'll be skipping on to something else before long.