Himiko’s House” reps another quirky, low-key seriocomedy from Nippon helmer Isshin Inudo, in the vein of his prior “Across a Gold Prairie” and “Josee, the Tiger and the Fish.” Slowly ingratiating item may get a leg up at home from the popularity of its two younger stars, who take change-of-pace roles here, while gay content at least assures travel on that fest circuit offshore. But for all its pleasing qualities, pic’s uneven storytelling and soft overall impact will probably dampen wider prospects.
Sullen young Saori (Kou Shibasaki), struggling to pay off debts, isn’t pleased when handsome Haruhiko (Jo Odagiri, excellent) shows up offering high pay for just one day’s weekly work at a private rest home — because this particular home is inhabited entirely by gay men, and founded by her long-estranged, now-dying father Himiko (Min Tanaka). Saori has never forgiven her father for leaving her late mother, nor is she fond of gays. But, she gradually warms to the eccentric, frequently cross-dressing residents, even over-the-top “Ruby” (a grating Torauernon Utazawa). Inudo’s deft touch, crisp visuals, and fresh ideas in Aya Watanabe’s not-always-convincing script generally compensate for sluggish moments and underdeveloped subplots.