Third in a trilogy (preceded by featurettes “Out of Place” and “Floating Women”) about Taiwanese women living in Japan, “Someone Else’s Shinjuku East” does not make one yearn to catch up on the first two. Meandering, unfocused docu too often seems to be simply hanging out with its subjects rather than gaining insight into their lives. Exposure is unlikely to reach beyond tube play in relevant territories.
First full-length effort by co-helmers Yang Li-chou and Michelle Chu initially intrigues with its cast of real-life characters: Several women and two men in the Tokyo bar-city of Shinjuku East, considered somewhat disreputable and dangerous. When Taiwan lifted an overseas travel ban in 1979, many residents — especially young women — seized the opportunity to support families back home via Japan’s higher wages, even if that meant work as bar hostesses, strippers or prostitutes. Many have been here for two decades; some prospering, some getting into debt, none finding much domestic happiness as third-class citizens. Half-dozen or so personalities focused on are engaging. But haphazardly structured, often aimless pic shortchanges more serious issues by spending too much time watching protags party. Tech aspects are OK.
— Dennis Harvey