Saturday, December 5, 2020

QCinema 2020: Reviews of TRUE MOTHERS and ROH (SOUL)

 December 5, 2020


Mr. and Mrs. Kiyokazu (Arata Iura) and Satoko (Hiromi Nagasaku) Kurihara wanted desperately to conceive a child but could not. Hikari Katakura (Aju Makita) was only 14 years old when she got pregnant by her boyfriend Takuri (Taketo Tanaka). Her parents sent her off to Baby Baton in Hiroshima, where Asami-san (Miyoko Asada) took her in until she gave birth, then arranged the adoption of her baby to the Kurihara couple. 

Because it devoted significant time to the stories of both women, the film ran for 2 hours and 20 minutes, which can feel slow at times. The story being told could have been told as a short film. However, Ms. Kawase did not take shortcuts to draw us into the emotional turmoil that led Hikari to one day seek out and confront the Kuriharas about Asato. Strange thing was, the ending, while beautifully poetic, still felt somewhat rushed. 

This was a family melodrama done in uniquely a Japanese style by writer-director Naomi Kawase. There was a distance felt between us the viewer and the characters, yet we are not completely detached. This was mainly because of the sensitive portrayals of the two mothers in the life of the little boy Asato (Reo Sato), as well as the motherly woman behind Baby Baton. 7/10.


A woman Mak (Farah Ahmad) lived in a small hut isolated at the edge of the woods with her daughter Along (Mhia Farhana) and son Angah (Harith Haziq). One day, a dirty little girl covered with grime (Putri Syahidah Nurqaseh) showed up outside their home, so Mak took pity and let her spend the night. The morning after, the girl shocked everyone by uttering a curse against the whole family, then she reached for a knife and sliced her neck.

One day, a hunter (Namron) with a spear showed up at their door looking for a missing little girl. From that time on, all kinds of misfortune soon befell Along, which Mak tried desperately to counteract with various folk rituals involving blood sacrifices of chickens and pigeons, as instructed by their only neighbor, a mysterious old lady (Junainah M. Lojong), who appeared to be knowledgeable about these matters.

There was not really much story in this horror story. However, director Emir Ezwan made up for that by creating an irresistibly creepy atmosphere with its deliberately slow pacing, the startling gory imagery and foreboding musical score and sound editing. Once I saw that unforgettable scene at the start of a poor deer hanging from a tree by its head, I knew this was going to be an uneasy ride into the unknown, but it never really reached the heart of that darkness. 6/10. 

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