Review: ‘Inochi’

A way overlong disease-of-the-week movie centered on a pregnant woman and her dying former lover, "Inochi" is only a notch removed from Japanese TV soap opera. Adapted from autobiographical novels by Miri Yu and flatly directed by Tetsuo Shinohara ("First Love," "School Day of the Dead"), pic has no chances offshore.

A way overlong disease-of-the-week movie centered on a pregnant woman and her dying former lover, “Inochi” is only a notch removed from Japanese TV soap opera. Adapted from autobiographical novels by Miri Yu (whose witty “Kazoku Cinema” was filmed by Korea’s Park Chul-soo) and flatly directed by Tetsuo Shinohara (“First Love,” “School Day of the Dead”), pic has no chances offshore.

Pregnant by a married Korean lover, Miri (Makiko Esumi) seeks advice from volatile theater director Yutaka Higashi (Etsushi Toyokawa), a former boyfriend who now has stomach cancer. Drawing succor from Miri’s condition, Yutaka tries to extend his life through medical treatment (including a trip to New York), and both prior to and after the birth of her son the pair form a de facto family unit. As Yutaka’s life ebbs, film turns very soapy in the elongated second half but without even the emotional clout of a full-on melodrama. Esumi remains serenely beautiful as Miri, while Toyokawa at least brings some character to the role of the conflicted, rebellious Yutaka. Visual style is clean but uninteresting. Title simply means “Life.”

Inochi

Japan

Production

A Toei Co. release of a TBS presentation of an Inochi Production Committee production, in association with Filmface Co. (International sales: Toei, Tokyo.) Produced by Morihiro Kodama, Masao Sato, Osamu Kamei, Teizo Aoyama, Toshiyuki Takagi. Executive producer, Norihiko Tani. Co-producers, Hidenori Iyoda, Junichi Shindo. Directed by Tetsuo Shinohara. Screenplay, Sumio Omori, based on the novels "Life" (Inochi), "Soul" (Tamashii) and "To Live" (Ikiru) by Miri Yu.

Crew

Camera (color), Takeshi Hamada; editor, Isao Tomita; music, Tatsuya Murayama; theme song, Namie Amuro; production designer, Hidetaka Ozawa. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (competing), Aug. 26, 2002. Running time: 110 MIN.

With

Makiko Esumi, Etsushi Toyokawa, Toshio Kakei, Kumiko Aso, Yasufumi Terawaki, Mitsuru Hirata, Toshie Negishi, Toru Emori, Goro Kishitani, Yuki Saito, Kirin Kiki.
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