A potentially cutesy story about professional vs. family values is partly turned on its head in “The Exam,” a mildly satirical treatment of the obsession by some Japanese families to get their tykes into upscale primary schools. With a crowd-pleasing finale that’s visible 10 reels away, this is family fare in overseas markets, where the social satire likely will be lost on foreign auds. (Shochiku is selling the pic under the sappy title “Daddy’s Last Run.”)
Middle-aged salaryman Masumi (rock ‘n’ roll star Eikichi Yazawa, in a low-key perf) is an avid amateur marathon runner who’s always competed under his company’s colors. When his financially strapped bosses close down the corporate athletics group, he begs them to keep it going so he can run his final race. Masumi also wants to keep his rocky corporate career a secret, because he and his wife, Toshie (Yuko Tanaka), are anxiously preparing for their 6-year-old daughter’s (Natsumi Ohira) interview to get into a snobbish Catholic school. Pic is a well-crafted, largely commercial chore compared with director Yojiro Takita’s subsequent “Secret,” but is given dramatic ballast by the leading trio’s ironic perfs.