Thursday, November 16, 2006


World Cinema Category
Cinema 1, Greenbelt 1
November 3 - 16, 2006


A sad thought provoking Japanese film that tackles depression, loneliness and a longing to establish a connection with other people. Ryuichi Hiroki's latest offering tells the story of Yuko, a 35 year old single woman who is jobless, lives alone and is battling manic depressive disorder. Her world revolves around 4 people who in some strange ways occasionally connect with her on different aspects. K, a sex pervert she met online with whom she has an illicit affair. She has a platonic affair with Noburu, a depressed 24 year old member of the Yakuza member. He connected to her through her blog where she posted pictures of some interesting facets of the Kamata area in Tokyo where she resides. Honma, her classmate in college who has erectile dysfunction. Her 'sometimes boyfriend' who has issues with intimacy. Lastly, Stoichi her male cousin with marital problems who one day shows up at her apartment. He eventually becomes her nurturing caregiver yet he also has some misgivings about his role as a husband and a distant father to his young daughter.
All of them at some point and in some form or the other present in her life yet once things 'pick' up in their respective lives, they soon 'abandon' poor Yuko. I wouldn't really say that they used her but I guess it was mutually beneficial. She needed them as much as they needed her to be part of their lives however briefly it might have been.

We learned that Yuko is an orphan who lives off the insurance she inherited when her parents died tragically in a fire. Looking at her, you don't really get the impression that she is suffering from a mental condition. She looks normal, she is very lucid yet she is heavily medicated. But she does have a tendency to embellish the truth with some little white lies. For instance, telling people that her parents were killed in the Hashin earthquake when the truth is they died in a fire. She does it to add more drama to her already tragic life. She justifies it by saying that "people would sympathize more if they learn they perished in an earthquake than just a fire that raze our house to the ground". I guess she has a twisted sense of view but I believe she just openly says things more to get some sympathy than to shock them with a sense of guilt. Yuko spends her days roaming the city taking pictures of anything that catches her fancy then posts them on her blog as well as an online forum for manic depressive people.

The director Ryuichi Hiroki was present during the screening of the film. Afterwards he commented in the Q & A portion that he wanted to show that even in a vibrant society like Japan, people get depressed and experience bouts of loneliness and extreme sadness. He also kept alluding to his previous film "The Vibrator" because he hired the same actress to star in both movies. Given that I never saw aforementioned film, I cannot make a valid comparison. But I have to say that the lead actress Shinobu Terashima gave such a moving and powerful performance as Yuko. From the way she dressed, her facial expressions to her body gestures, everything was really quite in character and it was a genuinely vivid portrayal.

It is a poignant look at a person who has no other options, no prospects yet still strives to live each day as it dawns. Lost in her little world, tucked away in her little corner of the world without much aspirations to make her life more fruitful, more challenging. A gnawing sense of acceptance settles in Yuko's life with a quietly calm demeanor that would perhaps frazzle any normal human being. Eventually, she realizes what is really important and would add more meaning to her life yet it is too late. The film ends in the same unassuming manner that it commenced. It doesn't aim to judge nor condemn Yuko's existence it just showcases her life as it is. An honest and realistic view on the life of a 30 something urbanite drifting away in a city that doesn't stop revolving, her life fraught with an eerie and depressing melancholy.

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