July 7, 2014
It is that time of year again when Japanese films are being shown in the Shangri-La Mall FOR FREE. This much-awaited annual event is the EIGA SAI. This year the theme is Family. Screenings will also be held in Davao City and Cebu City from July 25 to August 10.
Here are my review of three films in the festival that I have seen:
1. THE KIRISHIMA THING
(Kirishima, bukatsu yamerutteyo)
"The Kirishima Thing" comes well-recommended with its major 2013 Japan Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director among others. This the reason why I chose to watch it first among the festival entries.
Kirishima is the star volleyball player and most popular guy of a certain high school. One day he mysteriously just quit the team and disappeared. Understandably, his teammates in the volleyball team and his close friends Hiroki and girl friend Risa, are all greatly affected by his sudden absence. This film also follows all the other kids in school (such as the film nerd and the band saxophonist girl) and how Kirishima's disappearance also affected them indirectly.
It was interesting to see the interactions of the attractive young actors like Ai Hashimoto, Mizuki Yamamoto, Suzuka Ohgo and Masahiro Higashide, who were all very natural in their acting. However, there is hardly a coherent story line that the film follows. We know one student had a crush on another one, and there was a lot of staring and longing that did not lead anywhere. I cannot see a definite point of the film as a whole. It felt like just going on and on without a clear message that it wanted to convey. Maybe there is no message nor story, just a documentation of what happened and nothing more. 5/10.
2. WOLF CHILDREN
(Ookami kodomo no Ame to Yuki)
Hana meets a quiet loner in the university and they fall in love. He reveals that he is half-Wolf, but she accepts him anyway. They have two children together -- the spirited girl Yuki and the serious boy Ame. But as tragedy struck, Hana had overcome great odds to move to the remote countryside and raise their two kids by herself, just as they were both already showing their human-wolf duality.
The animation is really a thing of beauty with its fine lines and gentle details. The dialogues were very well-written and were delivered with much distinct personality by the voice actors. Mamoru Hosoda told his story of maternal sacrifice in a very slow and moving way, as only Japanese can do so well. It was able to establish an emotional connection with the audience from beginning to end. Watching this film is a beautiful and gratifying experience. 9/10.
3. LIKE FATHER LIKE SON
(Soshite chichi ni naru)
We have seen many films delve on the topic of babies being switched at birth. Most of these, the story would revolve around the fortune of the kids. For a change, "Like Father, Like Son" is about the parents, particularly the fathers.
Ryoko and Midori Nonomiya are a well-to-do couple who had a sweet 6-year old son, Keita. Yukari and Yudai Saiki are a lower middle-class couple with a spirited 6-year old son, Ryusei. One day, they get news that a nurse had switched their sons with each another one at the hospital. With that shocking revelation, both families undergo an emotional ordeal in deciding how to settle their big problem in the best possible way for everyone concerned.
Writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda decides to tell the story from the point of view of Ryoko, a driven man at work who was disappointed that his son Keita was not as competitive nor independent as he wanted. When he gets the chance to be father to Ryusei as well, Ryoko discovers that his concept of fatherhood might not be as ideal as he thought.
Koreeda sets the contrasting dichotomy a bit too sharply. The Nonomiya home is sedate, quiet, and darkly lit. The Saiki home is messy, noisy and brightly lit. Ryoko (Masaharu Fukuyama) is handsome and smartly- dressed, but he is serious and haughty. Yukari (Riri Furanki) is homely and shoddily-dressed, but he is cheerful and kind. Which kind of father do you think the boys will prefer?
The important message of this film will definitely resonate with all fathers who watch this film. Fathers will reflect on their own parenting style and on what kind of father he had been. This film deserves all the praise heaped upon it. It is about time fatherhood is discussed very well in a film. 8/10.
The schedules of the films to be shown in Manila, Davao and Cebu are detailed HERE.