WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot's elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.
“A father, a mother, an elder son, a daughter and a younger son. A family of five. To all appearances, a perfectly normal, happy family. However it turns out that none of them have a blood relationship. Each of them has a sad story and separate families of their own. Does being related by blood, make a family? Or if they live together, does it make them a family? When people learn to connect with others, when they are placed in a difficult situation, how do they react for a family? This is a film about people who were hurt by family, but saved by family. ”
(Text from the Festival's program)
The Moriyama family looks like any other ordinary family. However, none of them are related. The father is a thief. He started stealing to support his pregnant wife. She is hit by a car and lose the baby. He gets caught, goes to prison and his wife leaves him. Once out of prison, he continues with a criminal life. One day, during a burglary, he discovers a young boy chained in the bathroom of a house. He decides to save him. Together they settle in a home, acting like father and son. Later, the thief triggers an alarm and, as he might be caught, he is helped by a teenager who has run away from his home. He was verbally abused by his parents who found his indecisiveness and shyness not up to the standard of their rich (but parvenu) status. He joins the father and younger “son” in their home.
The mother was physically abused by her violent husband. One day she is considering killing herself by jumping in front of a train but notices a teenage girl who is about to do the same. Without thinking about her own situation anymore, she prevent the girl from jumping. The girl was sexually abused by her father. They both run away (it is more implied than said or shown) and settle in an apartment together as mother and daughter. One day, the mother meets the father in a pet shop and the father (it’s not shown how or why) invites them to join his little family.
They survive through a life of crime: the father doing burglary, the mother swindling men in mariage schemes, the older son doing forgery in a print shop and the young boy and girl simply going to school. Unfortunately, the mother tries to swindle a bigger swindler and she ends up kidnapped. The family rushes to gather the ransom, but, despite the father’s warning, it leads them to a violent outcome. The father goes to prison again to save his family. In the end, the family will pull through thanks to its strength. Despite not being related, they all had suffered abuse and could better understand and confort each other. Reconstituted family can work and even be stronger than blood ties.
There is a lot of frustration nowadays in Japan which apparently translate into an increase of domestic violence at home. This subject (and its salvation through reconstituted family) is interesting but the storytelling is often way too slow, and also contains gaps or credibility issues. Some scenes are simply not plausible, not because of the actors’ performance, which is quite excellent, but because the situation is being too convenient or at least not explained in a satisfactory manner. However, it is a beautiful story and a good enough movie to be well worth watching.
At home (アットホーム): Japan, 2015, 110 min.; Dir.: Hiroshi Chono; Scr.: Teruo Abe (based on the novel by Takayoshi Honda); Music: Takatsugu Muramatsu; Phot.: Shinya Kimura; Ed.: Osamu Suzuki; Prod. Des.: Shin Nakayama; Cast: Yutaka Takenouchi (Dad/Thief), Yasuko Matsuyuki (Mom/Swindler), Kentaro Sakaguchi (Jun Moriyama), Yuina Kuroshima (Asuka Moriyama), Yuto Ikeda (Takashi Moriyama), Jun Kunimura, Itsuji Itao, Seiji Chihara.
Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on August 28th, 2015 (Cinema Quartier Latin 12, 12h00 – with an attendance of 90 people, filling 60% of the theatre) as part of the “Focus on World Cinema” segment. The director was present for a short Q&A at the end.
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