Review: ‘Good Morning to the World!’

Endearingly odd and occasionally hilarious.

Endearingly odd and occasionally hilarious, “Good Morning to the World!” is a bare-bones Japanese indie about a suburban Tokyo teen who sets out to find the family of an evidently dead homeless man. Twenty-three-year-old writer-director Hirohara Satoru’s pic, which won the Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema at the Vancouver fest, won’t take any prizes for technical prowess, its low-fi images even stuttering at many points. But the film is certainly authentic in its study of a high-school boy whose scattered attention comes sharply into focus. Wide distribution seems unlikely, although “Good Morning” will be greeted warmly at fests.

Set just prior to summer vacation, Satoru’s deadpan comedy follows 16-year-old shadowboxer and air-guitar strummer Takahashi Yuta (Koizumi Yoichiro), an only child whose dad quit the family and whose mom is often away on biz. Walking to and from school, Yuta lingers whenever he sees Igarashi, a middle-aged man who sleeps on the side of the road in a tunnel. Learning of the man’s death, the boy rummages through Igarashi’s bag for info about his friends and next of kin, and thumbs a ride out of town.

Yuta’s stop at the apartment of Igarashi’s friend allows Satoru to indulge his fondness for long takes and narrative minimalism. For the most part, these two strangers simply stare at one another from across a table. The film’s opening scene of young hooligans walking, talking and drinking has only a little to do with what follows — the better for Satoru to introduce early on his quirkily rambling style of storytelling.

En route to an unforgettable (and lengthy) final shot, which is accompanied by a raucous punk-rock tune, Satoru offers a sly twist that’s fully in keeping with his pic’s droll sense of humor.

The film’s title appears onscreen as “Good Morning, the World.”

Good Morning to the World!

Japan

Production

Produced, directed, written, edited by Hirohara Satoru.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Koarai Hirotatsu, Satoru; music, Artless Note; production designer, Shinohara Ayako. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival (Dragons & Tigers), Oct. 9, 2010. Running time: 81 MIN.

With

Koizumi Yoichiro, Arai Miho, Izumi Mitsunori, Morimoto Namiko, Kaneyama Shotaro, Kato Koichi.

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