I have been looking forward to this film since it premiered in Japan in May. It stars Shota Sometani (who is in 7 films showing at the festival this year!!) as Yuki Hirano, a city kid who has flunked his college entrance exams and gets dumped by his girlfriend as a result. With no direction in life, he decides to take on a 12 month course as a trainee lumberjack because he likes the photo of the girl on the flyer. It’s not as outlandish as it sounds. If I saw Masami Nagasawa on a recruiting poster for the worst job in the world, I would probably do the same thing.
Regular visitors to Japan will recognise the director’s use of different types of trains to show Yuki moving further out into the countryside and at the end of his journey, he finds himself without cell phone coverage and about to enter a whole new world. From this point on, it’s your typical fish out of water tale. He fails to impress one of his instructors, Yoki Iida (another of my favourites, Hideaki Ito) and as well as the girl on the flyer who catches him trying to escape training one day.
He decides to stay and ends up boarding with the stern instructor and it’s there where his slow transformation from city slicker to mountain main takes place; there and high up in the trees. Along the way, there are dramas and romance, ancient traditions and the constant counterpoint of town versus country. The mountain goddess angle of the film was a subtle introduction to a traditional festival that takes place on the mountain and for mine, really added a deeper layer to what at first appears to be a pretty light comedy. But for me, the scene that stood out takes place back in the city when Yuki smells fresh lumber and the camera focusses in on some exquisite joinery on a building site. It was a nod to Japanese carpentry and by extension, to its traditions that sometimes take place far from the glittering lights of Tokyo.
A really enjoyable movie.
8 axes out of 10