Saturday, July 26, 2014

Case of Kyoko, Case of Shuichi

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.

“Minamisanriku, Japan, was devastated by the tsunami of March 11, 2011, with most buildings destroyed by waves of 16 metres or higher, and over half the town's population swept away or drowned. With 90% of the town gone, there's no "home" there anymore for former residents Kyoko and Shuichi. For psychological reasons as well: left behind were a mother and a child. What does the future hold for the living?” (Text from the Festival's program)

Case of Kyoko, Case of Shuichi feels like two movies in one. We follow the path of two characters, Kyoko and Shuichi, who never meet but nearly intersect at the end of the movie—only because they are from the same hometown of Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture. Both of them have commit some sort of ”crime” that forced them to leave their home for Tokyo, where they try to rebuilt their life. Both of them are lonely and adrift, in search for something or someone to anchor their heart. In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, they both decide to go back home, to look for the loved one they left behind (her daughter, his mother).

Kyoko is very unhappy and works as an insurance agent to support her family. The competition amongst her coworkers is fierce and she ends up having an affair with her boss (and with some customers) in order to secure her employment. When this scandalous situation is revealed, she is blamed and shamed by her family. She has to leave her hometown. Can she improve her situation or is she condemned to succumb to the same pitfall?

Shuichi accidentally killed his abusive father in order to protect his mother. After serving time in a juvenile detention center, he finds a job in a small factory in Tokyo. He makes friends and slowly finds acceptance and redemption.

Case of Kyoko, Case of Shuichi is the fifth movie directed by actor Eiji Okuda (his first movie as director, Shōjo (2001), and his third movie, A Long Walk (2006), were shown at the Montreal Film Festival). He likes small budget movies and instead of hiring big-name actors (probably to save money), the two main roles are played by his daughter (Sakura Ando) and son-in-law (Tasuku Emoto) — I am wondering if it is easier or harder to direct your own daughter; the quality of the performance is the same anyway it seems. The director was present at the festival but had unfortunately left by the time I screened the movie so I missed the opportunity to see him. The theatre was a little more than half full.

It is a good movie with nice photography and an introspective subject that succeeds nevertheless to capture the attention of the viewer. It reminds me a little of Claude Lelouch's A man and a women: we expect Kyoko and Shuichi to meet in the end, but they don't. However, it seems that they are destined to meet. We can only hope that they eventually do.

For more impression on this movie, I suggest reading Mark Schilling's review in The Japan Times.

Case of Kyoko, Case of Shuichi (今日子と修一の場合 / Kyoko to Shuichi no baai): Japan, 2013, 135 min.; Dir. & Scr.: Eiji Okuda; Phot.: Takahiro Haibara; Ed.: Manabu Shinoda; Mus.: Hibiki Inamoto; Prod.: Takahito Obinata, Miyako Kobayashi; Cast: Sakura Ando, Tasuku Emoto, Soko Wada, Ena Koshino, Takanori Takeyama, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Mitsuru Hirata. Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on August 29th, 2013 (Cinema Quartier Latin 12, 19h00) as part of the “ Focus on World Cinema” segment.
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Case of Kyoko, Case of Shuichi © 2013 Zero Pictures

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