(director/writer: Werner Herzog; cinematographer: Werner Herzog; editor: Sean Scannell; music: Ernst Reijseger; cast: Yuichi Ishii, Mahiro Tamimoto (Mahiro), Umetani Hideyasu (Robot Hotel Manager), Shun Ishigaki (Pantomime), Miki Fujimaki (Mahiro’s Mother), Take Nakamura (Father of Bride/lottery official), Yuka Watanabe (Bride), Jin Kuroinu (Ishii’s friend), Airi Coats (Mahiro’s little friend); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Roc Morin; Skellig Rock; 2019-USA-in Japanese with English subtitles)

The gimmicky idea might seem like a good one briefly, but doesn’t hold-up for a feature.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The latest from the prolific German director Werner Herzog (“Cave of Forgotten Dreams”/”Salt and Fire”) is a minor film that mixes fact with fiction.

Herzog follows a Japanese company that hires out actors to pose as friends and family members to the likes of wedding guests and funeral mourners. It uses the real company founder Yuichi Ishii to play himself in a drama which is scripted around what he really does for a living. The director observes without judging
this play acting. The gimmicky idea might seem like a good one briefly, but doesn’t hold-up for a feature. After an hour or so, I lost interest.

The well-dressed Yuichi Ishii (playing himself) anxiously waits near Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park to meet the supposedly 12-year-old Mahiro Tanimoto. “I am your father,” he says as they walk together in the park and he apologizes for deserting her when she was a child. He tells her he has a new family now but wants to make amends. We learn he has been hired by Mahiro’s mother (Miki Fujimaki) to play her father. I couldn’t think of anything more creepy!

That there are such “rent-a-family” enterprises in Tokyo surprises me but doesn’t please me. Let’s just say it’s a matter of different cultures for different folks. As for the 80-year-old Herzog, he’s blessed to still be curious about life and in a position to satisfy it.

We are informed Yuichi works for an organization called Family Romance that for a price can provide just about any service dealing with reality, with its non-professional actors and writing crew.

Hey, if you’ve got the dough and have a need to fake something, I see no objections morally. Except it’s something I could never see myself doing.

Family Romance, LLC

REVIEWED ON 1/26/2021  GRADE: C+