On Monday last week, A and I travelled across the harbour to see the movie ‘Dearest’ which was unable to be shown at last years Japanese Film Festival and which was playing at the Dendy Quays cinema as a third attempt. What follows is my review of the movie.
Ken Takakura, an icon of Japanese cinema, plays Eiji Kurashima, a recent widower and elderly prison counsellor. His wife, Yoko, performed compassionately if sparingly by Yuko Tanaka, has left him a card asking that her ashes be scattered in the harbour of her home town. He takes a leave of absence and starts his dutiful pilgrimage.
Kurashima’s travels take him from his home in the north all the way to Kyushu and along the way he comes across some fellow lost souls including some comical encounters with Beat Takeshi as a retired teacher with another life and Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Koichi Sato who play two food stall cooks he keeps bumping into and it is these scenes that flesh out the middle part of the film and that give us some emotional flesh to hang on this film’s bones.
The journey provides Eiji with the opportunity to relive some magical moments with his lost love and provides some context about why she asked him to embark on this journey. When he eventually makes it to her home town and comes across a photo of her as a teenager in a shop window, the viewer is left with a perfect example of what separates some foreign cinema from the cookie cutter Hollywood product we get nowadays.
The final third of the movie has Eiji receiving help from mother and daughter (Kimiko Yo and Haruka Ayase) to finally scatter the ashes as well as giving the audience a surprise that I did not see coming. I would not say the cinematography was outstanding but some scenes were beautifully shot and it was well edited. The dialogue was well done but with as with most subtitled films, there is always the possibility that you miss the cultural essence of what the characters are saying and what lies behind their words.
Overall, this film was another winner for me and I look forward to seeing more of Ken Takakura’s films in the future. A national treasure of Japanese cinema, there is a back catalogue of 205 films to catch up on so best I start.