(director/writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa; screenwriters: Max Mannix, Sachiko Tanaka; cinematographer: Akiko Ashizawa; editor: Koichi Takahashi; music: Kazumasa Hashimoto; cast: Kyôko Koizum (Megumi), Teruyuki Kagawa (Ryuhei Sasaki), Kai Inowaki (Kenji Sasaki), Haruka Igawa (Ms. Kaneko, piano teacher), Yu Koyanagi (Taka Sasaki), Jason Gray (American Soldier); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Wouter Barendrecht, Yukie Kito; Regent Releasing; 2008-Japan, in Japanese with English subtitles)

“Beautifully shot film that’s like an Ozu family drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Japanese filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa (“Wife of a Spy”/”Cure”), known for his horror films, directs this beautifully shot film that’s like an Ozu family drama. He co-writes it with Max Mannix and Sachiko Tanaka.

Ryuhei Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) loses his office manager’s job for a medical equipment firm due to downsizing.

Too ashamed to tell this to his wife Megumi (Kyoko Koizumi), a housewife, or his two teenage sons, the younger piano playing one Kenji (Kai Inowaki), who takes lessons despite his authoritarian father’s disapproval, and the older Takashi (Yu Koyanagi) who enlists in the U.S. military to gain American citizenship despite dad’s disapproval.

Ryuhei pretends to still be working as he leaves for work each workday morning, but is really only looking for work at the employment office and spends his days mostly in the park.

The film makes valid points on deception, as it turns into an allegory on the anxieties in contemporary Japan.

What it does really well is show how thick are the family bonds despite all the deceptions, and shows how something as hurtful as being unemployed can upset a family if not handled in a respectful way.

The acting is first-rate, the story is poignant and its questions raised about the acceptance of traditional Japanese values in the modern-world come off like a finely tuned sonata that might appeal in different ways to each listener.

REVIEWED ON 10/10/2023  GRADE: B+