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Be With You

Adying woman keeps her promise to return in "Be With You," a supernatural Japanese tear-jerker with more gentle twists than a romantic's sodden Kleenex. First feature by top-ranking TV director Nobuhiro Doi was a major success locally late last year. Pic may be too exotic for audiences beyond Asia, despite its high-quality meller elements.

Cast:
With: Shidou Nakamura, Akashi Takei, Yuko Takeuchi, Mikako, Fumiyo Kohinata, Yuta Hiraoka.

Adying woman keeps her promise to return in “Be With You,” a satisfying, supernatural Japanese tear-jerker with more gentle twists than a romantic’s sodden Kleenex. First feature by top-ranking TV director Nobuhiro Doi was a major success locally late last year, maintaining its place in the top 10 for 11 weeks, even after the release of socko anime hit “Howl’s Moving Castle” in mid-November. However, pic may be too exotic for audiences beyond Asia, despite its high-quality meller elements.

On his 18th birthday, Yuji (Yuta Hiraoka) recalls the death of his mother, Mio (Yuko Takeuchi), when he was 6, and how as a young kid (Akashi Takei) he was blamed by relatives for complicating his mother’s health problems. Yuji’s caring but hopelessly disorganized dad Takumi (Shidou Nakamura) also has health problems.

Before dying, Mio created a picture book for her son in which she vowed she would return during the rainy season. Both father and son eagerly await changes in the weather, and, as the rainy season begins, they come across an angelic but bewildered woman, who strongly resembles Mio, living in the forest.

She doesn’t recognize them and appears to be suffering from amnesia. But with the aid of Mio’s diaries, the three resume family life as if nothing had happened.

Flashbacks limn Takumi and Mio’s earlier story before a clever finale transforms this gentle Japanese ghost story into a fantasy of a different kind.

Performances are amiable in a restrained Japanese way, with the beguiling Takeuchi eloquently embodying Mio’s ethereal beauty. The impish Takei is solid in the demanding role of the younger Yuji, and Fumiyo Kohinata delivers a warm supporting perf as a sympathetic doctor.

Tech package is high quality, though Suguru Matsutani’s intrusive, relentlessly saccharine score will test the patience of even the most dedicated meller fans. Original title literally means “I Am on My Way to You.”

Be With You

Japan

Production: A Toho presentation of a Tokyo Broadcasting System production, in association with Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Shogakukan, SDP Mainichi Broadcasting System. (International sales: TBS, Tokyo.) Produced by Minami Ichikawa, Kei Haruna, Shin Horiguchi. Executive producers, Kunikatsu Kondo, Kazuya Hamana, Hideyuki Honma. Directed by Nobuhiro Doi. Screenplay, Yoshikazu Okada, based on the novel by Takuji Ichikawa.

Crew: Camera (color), Takahide Shibanushi; editor, Tomoo Sanjo; music, Suguru Matsutani; sound (Dolby Digital), Hitoshi Tsurumaki. Reviewed on videocassette, Sydney, Feb. 27, 2005. (In Berlin Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 118 MIN.

With: With: Shidou Nakamura, Akashi Takei, Yuko Takeuchi, Mikako, Fumiyo Kohinata, Yuta Hiraoka.

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