In Japanese with English and Chinese Subtitles
Director: Ryoichi Kimizuka
Cast: Koichi Sato, Mirai Shida, Ryuhei Matsuda,
Yuriko Ishida, Kuranosuke Sasaki, Shiro Sano, Yoshino Kimura,
RunTime: 1 hr 58 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Opening Day: 11 June 2009 (The Picturehouse)
girl whose brother has been arrested for murder, and the cop
assigned to protect her. Both are on the run from an angry
public that has already passed judgment on their lives.
There’s an eerie sense of realism to Ryoichi Kimizura’s
latest film, a movie that works on so many levels that it’s
simply captivating to watch. It begins with a prologue of
what happens when a minor is arrested in Japan- in such circumstances,
the family members of the accused are separated for questioning
while the police are tasked to protect them.
such police protection is necessary becomes apparent in this
story that unfolds documentary-style when an 18-year old boy
is arrested in his suburban home for the horrific stabbing
of two young sisters. Almost instantaneously, the peace of
the usually quiet neighbourhood is broken by the presence
of hundreds of reporters. Yes, scandal and crime have always
been fodder for sensationalism and the media can no doubt
sense a good story when they see one.
focus of Kimizura’s movie is on the accused’s
sister, a 15-year old fresh-eyed secondary school girl called
Saori (played beautifully by Mirai Shida) whose life is suddenly
turned upside down by the media frenzy. Unsatisfied with the
suspect in custody, the public, with some generous help from
the media, have quickly turned the blame to her entire family,
calling on them to apologise. And in turn, the press have
set after each member of the family like hound dogs chasing
to protect Saori is Detective Katsuura (Koichi Sato), a weary
police officer still traumatised by an incident three years
ago. No thanks to the vigilance of a certain reporter, his
past has been dredged up by the press, and by association
with Saori, becomes the target of their scrutiny as well.
However inopportune, this is their bond- both victims of a
critical media carelessly fanning the tide of negative public
sentiment against them.
a deft hand, writer/director Kimizura vividly brings to light
what it means to be trialled by the media and pronounced guilty
by a reproachful public. Don’t be too quick to dismiss
such a circumstance as far-fetched- just think of how the
foreign press too quickly came to the conclusion that pilot
suicide was behind the Silkair crash some ten years ago, a
mere conjecture that was later proved unfounded, and you’ll
realise such a predicament can indeed happen in real life.
also makes his warning more prescient by alluding to the dangers
of the new media, a media so open that the lines between media
and public blur. Founded on the basis of speed, it is also
where rumours and gossip easily spread like wildfire. And
perhaps even direr, it is under a cloak of anonymity that
many netizens simply let their words and feelings run callously
free. Yes, if we haven’t thought about what it feels
like to be a subject chewed up by the media, here’s
a perfect opportunity to do so.
more than just a criticism of the media, Kimizura’s
film also packs a powerful message about family. Both physically
and symbolically, Saori finds her family abruptly ripped apart
by the actions of her brother whose reasons for his crime
will only become clear at the end. Extreme though it may be,
this is still a persuasive cautionary tale about family dysfunction
and its ramifications on every member within.
complementing this story arc is Katsuura’s own family
woes- a wife about to launch divorce proceedings against him
and a daughter making a last-ditch attempt to save their family.
While it probably comes as no surprise that Katsuura will
eventually find his redemption, both domestically and professionally,
he does so in a particularly poignant way that drives home
the significance of treasuring the family we have.
power of Kimizura’s film therefore lies in its uncanny
ability to weave two separate but no less pressing social
issues- the perils of our new media and the brokenness of
modern-day families- into a compelling tale that is as thought-provoking
as it is touching. Rarely is social drama so gripping and
affecting at the same time, and that is this movie’s
(Social drama at its best- this is as thought-provoking
as it is poignant and just as affecting either way)
Review by Gabriel Chong