Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Cast: Takeru Satoh, Haruka Ayase, Miki Nakatani, Joe Odagiri, Shota Sometani, Keisuke Horibe, Yutaka Matsushige, Kyoko Koizumi
RunTime: 1 hr 52 mins
Rating: PG (Some Disturbing Scenes)
Released By: Encore Films
Opening Day: 14 November 2013
Synopsis: Directed by one of Japan’s best filmmakers, Kiyoshi Kurosawa has delivered yet another masterpiece. REAL is among the highly-anticipated movies set to release this year. REAL is about a pair of childhood lovers who struggles to find love and seeks to discover the truth in an infinite world where reality and unreality meet. In 2012, Atsumi (Haruka Ayase) attempted suicide and fell into a coma since. Through a sophisticated neurological treatment called ‘sensing’, Koichi (Takeru Satoh) enters the multi-dimensional world to communicate with Atsumi and tries to find out why she tried to kill herself. Along the way, Koichi begins to remember; There is something else that is bothering him- a boy.
REAL is adapted from an award winning novel, A Perfect Day for a Plesiosaur by Rokuro Inui. Ko-ichi (Takeru Satoh) was in desperate hopes to bring his fiancée, Atsumi (Haruka Ayase) out of coma from an attempted suicide. He decided to enter her subconscious mind through a futuristic medical treatment known as ‘sensing’. It seems like the picture of a Plesiosaur holds the key to all the mystery. What exactly is preventing her from waking up?
The first half of the movie was very well set-up. The introduction of having a machine that can actually connect two people’s subconscious minds was new and interesting. The attention of the audience was kept high as Ko-ichi uses his limited time during ‘sensing’ to try to convince and figure out what Atsumi needs to wake up from her coma. It was able to engage and make audience want to delve deeper into the story as well.
This movie is directed and co-written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who is well known for past works such as dark family drama Tokyo Sonata (2008) and horror movie Pulse (2001). Although his more recent works seem to suggest that he is steering away from the horror elements, REAL shows that his peculiar penchant for horror is still strong at present. So do expect some gruesome and grotesque visuals and dead bodies popping out of nowhere, as they are part of Atsumi and Ko-ichi’s imagination. After all, Atsumi is a manga artist best known for her murder solving series, Roomi.
The later half of the movie had a twist and plunged right into chasing their shared childhood memories at an island. At this point, the story still seemed coherent. However, as the secret behind the plesiosaur was unveiled, it went a little haphazard and the leadings into the series of event were not very well explained and developed. The whole set up in the earlier half also became irrelevant. This thus made the revelation of the story a lot less impactful and overly simplistic (e.g. the anagram that can be resolved effortlessly).
Overall, the movie did not have much of a focus. Although the clever use of symbols and signs (e.g.having a heavily fogged place representing the unconscious mind and subliminal memories) was commendable, it wasted too much time on a lengthy introduction which did no good to the story development. The scary visuals served no purpose and side stories concerning the other supporting were insignificant.
The story development also got a bit ridiculous when the plesiosaur suddenly became the main. Arguably the climax, the wrestling with the plesiosaur seemed to be made intentionally long to showcase the intricate and well done CGI. Lastly, it was interesting to note that Atsumi and Ko-ichi actually saw a dried seahorse to resemble the plesiosaur (but no, it’s really just a dried seahorse in a bottle). A perfect day for a plesiosaur? A far far cry from it.
(Possibly an attempt to be avant-garde and creative, but it lost all the attention when the Plesioasaur stole the show)
Review by Tho Shu Ling