Ryuhei (Kagawa) manages a busy office and is so stunned when he's made redundant that he doesn't tell his wife Megumi (Koizumi). He pretends to go to work every day, hanging out near a homeless centre with an unemployed friend (Tsuda). Meanwhile, Megumi is battling her own inner demons, wishing her life wasn't so dull. And their sons have problems too: teen Takashi (Koyanagi) decides to join the US military in Iraq, while preteen Kenji (Inowaki) spends his lunch money on piano lessons, discovering that he's a prodigy.
Kurosawa opens with an Ozu-style shot of domestic tranquillity before unpeeling everything down to bare bone. It becomes a kind of kitchen sink horror film, as each character is pushed to the brink emotionally and physically. And what makes this film remarkable is the fact that they all travel this path on their own, too proud or afraid to reach out for any help, right to the achingly beautiful finale. This biting comment on modern society (not just Japan's) is thoroughly unnerving.
The cast members give strong, transparent performances that highlight hidden emotions. Even as the plot spirals into overwrought scenes of emotion, pain and fear, the film remains stately and cool. This matter-of-fact approach cleverly shows everyday situations warping into something extraordinary. Dreams of an unruffled, happy life vanish in a moment. Ryuhei wants just a shred of dignity, Megumi wishes she could wake up and be someone else, Kenji wants to do what he knows he should do, Takashi wants to control his destiny.
As everything is stripped away, each of them must find the strength to move forward. All of these things happen in beautifully staged scenes that resonate deeply. We know exactly what it's like to try to maintain some privacy and independence by hiding our true feelings. We also know that people are rather eerily more observant than we think they are. We can't hide as well as we'd like to. And in the end, we need each other to help put things back together.
Run time: 120 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 27th September 2008
Box Office USA: $0.1M
Distributed by: Regent Releasing
Production compaines: Django Film
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Fresh: 79 Rotten: 5
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Producer: Wouter Barendrecht, Yukie Kito
Screenwriter: Max Mannix, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Sachiko Tanaka
Starring: Teruyuki Kagawa as Ryuhei Sasaki, Kyôko Koizumi as Megumi Sasaki, Yû Koyanagi as Takashi Sasaki, Kai Inowaki as Kenji Sasaki
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