Saturday, October 3, 2015

Film Review : Journey to the Shore

Chimes sound as Mizuki walks, seemingly floating, through a room with mystic red lights and a wall overflowing with painted roses. The lights fade out as the man sleeping in a bed next to the wall enters dream world.

Fast forward to the next morning, and Mizuki wakes up in a daze. Where is she? The place seems familiar, but somehow different. She walks around, knowing the layout of the building but convinced that something has changed. As she loses her dizziness and becomes more aware of her surroundings, everything becomes clear; the building she is in has been long since dilapidated, the walls are crumbling beyond repair, and the man she saw last night was a ghost. Mizuki has been interacting with ghosts quite a lot lately. One such ghost is her late husband, Yusuke. He appeared to her after a mysterious three-year absence, then explained that he had died on a shore just after a boating accident. Yusuke asks Mizuki to accompany him to the place where he died. She repeatedly tries to ask him why, but he won't tell her the answer, instead he insists that on the way to his dying place, she joins him as he revisits people and places that were important to him during his lifetime. As Mizuki journeys with the spirit of her late husband, she gradually learns the deeper purpose of his return to the Earth realm, but will she have the power and the will to do everything that he asks of her?

The journey taken by the characters is absorbing and fascinating. Eri Fukatsu plays Mizuki in some ways closed off to the world around her, but in other ways almost too sensitively. There are times when the mask she presents to the world seems completely unemotional, yet there are times when she explodes with joy or grief. It is a compliment to Ms. Fukatsu that she can keep people absorbed during Mizuki's quieter moments, knowing that the emotional payoffs will eventually come.

Tadanobu Asano effectively plays the role of Yusuke (or rather, his ghost). He also presents multiple sides, but these manifest in the different sides of his personality that he presented to different people he knew. Mr. Asano has a seemingly intuitive knowledge of which parts of the character to present at any given time; in his own way, he is an equal to the emotional dramatics displayed by his female costar.

Meanwhile, the soundtrack perfectly encapsulates the juxtaposition between supernatural concerns and emotions that happen to the characters in the physical world. Sometimes it's mysterious, and sometimes it's all too real, but it never loses sight of its fundamental gentility even in the face of difficult moments.

In bringing Journey to the Shore to life (adapted from Kazumi Yumoto's novel Kishibe no Tabi), director Kiyoshi Kurosawa has brought us a masterpiece. The power of the film lies not only in its juxtaposition of issues present in the mind, the emotions, and physical reality, but in its insistence that the best way to understand each is to consider them part of the same element. Mizuki misses Yusuke (a part of her mind responsible for memories). She is meeting him again in the form of a ghost (which is occurring in physical reality). By observing him tie up loose ends from when he was alive, she gains the courage to confront parts of her own life that have bothered her. The result is an emotional release, as she is no longer disturbed by the worries that have plagued her... although the memory of her husband will never fade away.

- Oded Aronson

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