After five years, five jobs and five boyfriends in Tokyo, Sawako (Mitsushima) is tired of settling for second best. Constantly belittled at work, her nice-nerd boyfriend Kenichi (Endo) wants her to be a mother to his 4-year-old daughter Kayoko (Aihara) from a previous marriage. Then her father (Iwamatsu) falls ill and her uncle (Shiga) summons her home to run the family river clam-packing business. So she heads back home, accompanied by Kenichi and Kayoko. Can she tough it out and give it her best shot?
The film is dryly hilarious as Sawako acknowledges that she's nothing special but becomes increasingly tetchy about being pushed around. Writer-director Ishii continually catches us off-guard with hilarious interaction, usually a sharp glance or a silly gesture in a scene that otherwise should be darkly disturbing. And Sawako's matter-of-fact approach is extremely amusing, especially as she's forced to return to a life she ran away from five years earlier.
The cast is terrific, playing these relentlessly unexceptional people in realistic ways that are funny and sometimes surprisingly emotional. Endo's always-knitting Kenichi is often the butt of the joke, especially when he runs off with Sawako's former nemesis (Suzuki), but his journey is unexpectedly engaging. And Mitsushima holds the film together as a young women who chooses to stand up for herself. And the black comedy is continually underscored by real human warmth.
Although slightly overlong, the film is shot in a straightforward way that underscores ordinariness, showing how outside pressures determine our fate unless we make difficult choices. Sawako's escape to Tokyo five years earlier was one of those, and now here she is again. On the other hand, maybe she can make something of this life And find herself in the process. Cleverly, there are no cathartic moments of self-discovery. as Ishii allows the characters to come of age by embracing their mediocrity. This might not be a revolutionary message, but it's helpful to be reminded that we can be happy even if we don't achieve some five-year plan.
Run time: 112 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 1st May 2010
Distributed by: Avex Entertainment
Production compaines: Avex Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 57%
Fresh: 4 Rotten: 3
IMDB: 7.0 / 10
Director: Yuya Ishii
Producer: Mayumi Amano
Screenwriter: Yuya Ishii
Also starring: Masashi Endo
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