“I love love, and I love life. I love. I just love. It’s just great. It’s the most enduring element we have is love”. – Gary Busey
Koji Fukada’s latest melodrama is one of arthaus’ best releases of 2022 due to its heavy subject matter handled very appropriately and the internal struggles the characters face when a crisis enters their home.
The story takes place in an apartment in urban Japan where Taeko and Jiro, two social workers, are celebrating a birthday in their apartment when disaster strikes. A death has occurred in their beloved home and the mood of the film changes from love and prosperity to bleakness and depression. The emotional toil the characters suffer in the film after the tragedy is a joy to watch as you are fully thrust into their psyche and what their coping mechanisms are.
The cinematography of the film could be best described as joyful since the beginning of the film starts off with vivid imagery, with colorful clothing and bright balloons plastered across the screen. This makes the film more uplifting, in comparison to the dark and shallow compositions Koji Fukada implements later on. The contrast in filmmaking moves the story in a seamless manner and does not disrupt or take away attention from the fantastic performances in front of you.
Speaking of acting, Fumino Kimura should be put into discussions as one of the best actresses out there as she delivers one of the most powerful performances in recent years. Her co-star Kento Nagayama helps to solidify their idyllic marriage on-screen and make their dynamics with the son Keita feel natural. The film does a great job in composing the family as not ultra happy but content, a group that has fun playing the wonderful game of Othello and creating an atmosphere of peace.
Fukada does a great job pushing the narrative forward by questioning the importance of love and life and which of the two takes power through the marriage of Taeko and Jiro. Jiro is a man who wants his life to be intact and stable whilst Taeko helps her blind ex to deal with a great loss and the marriage’s cracks make for compelling cinema. Love is seen as a phase in the film, a passage of time similar to blissful memories, and life is the opposite. Life is the reality we must contend with and make sense of too.
The flaw of the film is in the lack of dimension in the character of Jiro, as he takes a backseat in the story and does not progress much to make an everlasting difference. Taeko at times is a bit cheesy but the purpose is understandable when looking at the context of the story.
The film is a wonderful experience with themes of selflessness and grief apparent in the plot and could be seen by anyone.