Forsaking his prior gay themes, writer-director Ryosuke Hashiguchi's first feature in seven years examines a marriage between two unremarkable individuals that endures, despite no lack of potential breaking points.

Forsaking his prior gay themes, writer-director Ryosuke Hashiguchi’s first feature in seven years examines a marriage between two unremarkable individuals that endures, despite no lack of potential breaking points. Gradual accumulation of mostly low-key detail doesn’t always engross, and the lyrical grandeur the helmer brought to intimate drama in “Like Grains of Sand” eludes this effort’s merely competent presentation. But patient viewers will find themselves rewarded, not least by author-illustrator Lily Franky, a quiet revelation in the male lead.

Franky plays easygoing Kanao, who, at the start, has already been with art-school sweetheart Shoko (Tae Kimura) for several years. Not that they necessarily seem right for each other: He’s “too loose,” she has “too many rules” (like clockwork sex three times a week). He drifts into most things, such as a new job as courtroom sketch artist; she’s dissatisfied with publishing-house work but is reluctant to change. Things go south for some time after they lose an infant child, but at last their bond emerges stronger than ever. Subplots could have been developed further, but despite occasional longueurs, pic’s narrow focus ultimately pays off — like Franky’s perf — in well-earned poignancy.

All Around

Japan

Production

A Siglo production. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Hiroki Ohwada, Yuji Sadai, Takeo Hisamatsu, Masayuki Miyashita, Yoshiro Yasunaga. Executive producer, Tetsujiro Yamagami. Directed, written, edited by Ryosuke Hashiguchi.

Crew

Camera (color), Shogo Ueno; music, Akeboshi; production designer, Toshihiro Isomi. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 9, 2008. Original title: Gururi nokoto. Running time: 142 MIN.

With

Tae Kimura, Lily Franky, Mitsuko Baisyo, Susumu Terajima, Tamae Ando, Norito Yashima, Minori Terada, Akira Emoto, Yuichi Kimura, Yosuke Saito.

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