So it was time for my annual ritual of catching the Japanese Film Festival since returning to Singapore from the JET program despite the fact that this year’s selects seemed a little lackluster and fell short on appeal to me with the many retrospective and 80s pieces.
I think I made a wise choice for the one movie to catch, with “minasan, sayonara” which left me gutted out and intoxicated by the rich tapestry that weaved the plot together. Set in the 80s of Japan when many self contained housing projects were modeled after the European style buildings and were erected, I thought Yoshihiro Nakamura did splendid dated piece that was meticulously crafted and had no anachronisms peeking through the cracks despite being produced in 2013. I loved the 80s calendar, the ladies bags and the progression along the timeline to the 90s as the time-sensitive objects presented themselves with smooth transition.
It was interesting how the protagonist was presented as a nondescript young men without any striking hunkish features nor stylish hairdo as would any other main lead in movies. I thus found it difficult to feel for Satoru as a character not delve emotionally into his presentation up until the point when the context of how his weird behaviour and hikkokomori tendencies came to be, showed up as a flashback of a disturbed childhood where he witnessed a stabbing of his best friend in his classroom. Once the engagement with his character was locked in for me, I was a sucker for sympathy towards Satoru over every bad thing that ensued upon his character’s fate thereafter.
Naomi Ortega’s insertion into the movie also lent a nostalgic air with a slight tinge of bitterness, to me as I beheld her amazing ball skills with her feet and a reminder of how bad I was at playing football at Bishan Park as a child. Some people have it and some just don’t, alas.
I loved how the satoru’s mother as a character seemed to always be intentionally left in the background throughout the movie anf given little airtime, yet her presence resurfaced and took the wind out of me while leaving me in teary mess, towards the end of the movie after her death and Satoru flipped through the pages of her diary to reveal a very supportive and loving mother who never pushed him to leave the grounds of the project but asked that he scatter her ashes over the waters of Okinawa where they originated, upon her death. Her comforting words to him always ringing through, “you will be just fine wherever you find yourself”.
Truly a gem of a piece, I soaked in and allowed my emotions to ebb and flow at will freely throughout the span of the movie.