Yet another true-to-life exercise in the Japanese youth-blahs, "Suddenly Arriving" never really gets anywhere, let alone suddenly, although going there does offers occasional low-key rewards. Pic is too subtle to make even fest-level waves, but mild nudity and universally recognizable sense of young-adult ennui could give it video legs.

Yet another true-to-life exercise in the Japanese youth-blahs, “Suddenly Arriving” never really gets anywhere, let alone suddenly, although going there does offers occasional low-key rewards. Pic is too subtle — or anemic — to make even fest-level waves, but mild nudity and universally recognizable sense of young-adult ennui could give it video legs.

Tale follows the intentional non-adventures of quiet Tachibana (Takeshi Ito), a Tokyo drifter who has worked in a suburban sausage shop for several years without forging any real friendships. In his late 20s, the lanky fellow doesn’t appear to have any interests, either, except for long, latenight walks that his co-workers — seen in the pic’s most amusingly handled scenes — find exceedingly weird. Somehow, he manages to meet Lisa (Tomoko Matsui), a troubled sprite attracted to what she sees as Tachibana’s stoical self-confidence.

Actually, he doesn’t know which end is up, but between them, they muster enough energy for some tentative coupling at her mother’s house — although their fun is interrupted by the sudden arrival of Mom (Botan Senba), back from a trip abroad and full of Christian-fundamentalist admonitions. While the punky Lisa attempts to get serious and raise her social status, her old b.f. Teruo (Taiyo Kitakaze), a would-be yakuza in tight red pants, decides he wants her back. Teruo and his gang members — a pretty mild bunch, to be sure — keep hanging around. Lisa isn’t having any of it, but Tachibana remains uncertain of his own feelings.

For a while, it looks like this triangular tension will lead to a man-to-man showdown, but helmer-scripter Kenji Fukuma isn’t interested in traditional dramatic payoffs. A poet and English lit professor, he’s more concerned with the minute lyricism of the banal — such as Teruo checking out his pompadour in a reflective car window — than with plot resolution. Nonetheless, these passive protags eventually come to some kind of vague turning points, as implied by the title, even if their journey is rather too discreet to engage most on-the-go auds. Tech credits are rough, but right for the characters’ essentially empty vistas.

Suddenly Arriving

Japan

Production

A Tough Mama (Tokyo) production. (International sales: Stance Co., Tokyo.) Produced by Kenji Fukuma, Noboru Honda, Junichi Neya, Toshiki Sato, Takahisa Zeze. Directed, written by Kenji Fukuma.

Crew

Camera, Yasumasa Konishi; editor, Naoki Kaneka; sound, Koichi Asanuma; assistant director, Toshiya Ueno. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival, Oct. 18, 1996. Running time: 90 MIN.

Cast

Takeshi Ito (Tachibana), Tomoko Matsui (Lisa), Taiyo Kitakaze (Teruo),
Koichi Imaizumi, Takahiko Kobayashi, Yoko Muronoi, Masato Hara, Yoji Tanaka, Kiyomi Ito, Senba Botan, Kiyoshi Okada, Yota Kawase, Fumiko Okishima.
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