There’s some of the same gentle, meditative feel to “The Crossing” as there was in Yoichi Higashi’s previous “Village of Dreams,” though the new pic lacks the studied rural beauty and period setting that made the latter so attractive to arthouse auds. Centered on a slowly budding friendship between a young man and his taciturn teenage nephew, “The Crossing” is an engaging, discreetly philosophical but over-elusive pic that too often slips like sand through your fingers. Limited sales beckon outside tube slots.
Third part of the “boy and river” trilogy that Higashi started with “The River With No Bridge” (1992), pic begins in characteristically blank-faced style with 14-year-old Takuya (Takahito Hosoyamada) calmly walking into a village post office and pulling out a large knife. Cut to Tokyo, where Takuya’s 29-year-old uncle, Koji (Michitaka Tsutsui), who already has enough problems at work, is hit by a triple whammy: the news of Takuya’s arrest, the news of his own father’s death and the sudden appearance that night in his bed of easy-come-easy-go g.f. Rin (Miho Tsumiki) after three months’ absence.
Allowing Takuya the benefit of the doubt — that he was acting weirdly because of his grandfather’s death — the authorities put the kid on probation and send him home. When Koji comes from Tokyo for the funeral, he and Takuya gradually get to know each other.
The loss of his father gives Koji first a feeling of emptiness, then the strength to take control of his destiny. A bond slowly grows between him and Takuya, each of them crossing over to a new stage in their lives, shedding the skin of the past in the renewal process.
Much like “Village of Dreams,” there’s little plot as such, more a patchwork of episodes in which the characters gradually evolve before the viewer’s eyes. Tsutsui makes a likable character of Koji, playing down his fragile grasp of reality as he makes peace with his childhood, seeing in Takuya a younger version of himself. In a largely silent role, Hosoyamada is OK as the expressionless kid. Adding brief swabs of color is Tsumiki as Koji’s restless squeeze, Rin.
Lensing of the rural locations is striking without being overly picturesque, especially the serene valley in which Koji’s native village is located.