Dir. Ishii Yuya. Japan. 2010.

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Directing his first 35mm cinematic release, Ishii Yuya has constructed an offbeat and satirical minefield of a film that cleverly contrasts big city urban life with small time village life, in a script he also wrote.

In the lead as Kimura Sawako, he has Mitsushima Hikari, playing with wide-eyed abandonment and herself as unusual as the people she encounters.  Having left her home town after seeing her father, Tadao (Shiga Kotaro) kissing another woman, when she was near the end of teenage years; she fled for Tokyo and took in a job at a toy company that remains unfulfilling after a number of years. 

Kimura is also in a relationship with a deluded simpleton, Arai Kenichi (Endo Masashi) who thinks of himself as an enviromentalist and free-thinker, but who easily gives into temptation when running off with the villlage bike Tomomi (Suzuki Natsumi).  In a clever elliptical plot strand, Arai has a daughter, who he would like to take Kimura as her 'new' mother; but because of Arai's wandering libido the daughter suffers much like Kimura did with her father when she was younger.

Upon her return to the village, Tadao is in bed facing death from cirrhosis; Kimura takes over the day-to-day running of the clam packing business and employs unusual business practices to gain the trust and enthuse the workforce.  Tadao's sudden rise from death's door to berate Kimura's life and choices leads her to believe that in spite of his weaknesses she will end up marrying Arai not in part due to his attractiveness, but due to the kinship between herself and the daughter, Kayoko.

Along with the mediocre romance there are other narrative plotpoints helped by uniquely rounded background characters.  Unlike other Japanese (and other Far Eastern films) that sentimentalise the working classes; here you have a film with a moral centre and a clear display of female empowerment.

The film is satirical in its depiction of the big business and small business; in big business the boss is as much a child as the children he deems suitable to play with his toys; yet he remains firmly on his own in a bubble.  Whilst the small rural community fare better together working in unison for a common goal. 

As for Kimura, there is never any doubt that she is making all the decisions on her own, in spite of parental advice, it is clear she is enamoured with Arai and in spite of his mediocrity he is the best chance she has at a happy marriage.  And her empowerment bolsters the workforce gaining results in the profit margin and net profits.  The film may be subversive in its delight of depicting such offbeat characters, but the bottom line remains the net reward for the charactes ambitions.

After a slow start to the film that only takes off after she leaves the populated Tokyo, the film does create a bold vision of urban life in spite of some less than perfect cinematography, however, seek it out for a unique slice of Japanese life in the sticks.

Jamie Garwood

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