Although carried by Riisa Naka's forceful perf as a devil-may-care pregnant woman, "Mitsuko Delivers" is an awkward Japanese comedy that often feels like hard labor.

Although carried by Riisa Naka’s forceful perf as a devil-may-care pregnant woman, “Mitsuko Delivers” is an awkward Japanese comedy that often feels like hard labor. Helmer Yuya Ishii’s rising-star status was cemented last year with the frequent fest play of “Sawako Decides,” which also featured an idiosyncratic femme, and this latest effort will follow the fest route of his earlier ventures. But commercial prospects inside or outside Japan look grim.

Soon to be evicted, pregnant Mitsuko (Naka) telephones her Tokyo-dwelling parents, aiming to convince them she’s not nearby but still living in the U.S. She finds digs on the street where she grew up and then reconnects with her childhood acquaintances so she can improve their lives, whether they like it or not. Script’s central conceit is that Mitsuko has an inner serenity, but in truth she just bullies everyone. While Naka’s performance generates smiles, the overall effect is that of a script unaware of its internal contradictions. Helming has a boxy tube look, with tech credits to match.

Film Review: 'Mitsuko Delivers'

Japan

Production

A "Mitsuko Delivers" Film Partners production. (International sales: Pony Canyon, Tokyo.) Produced by Hiroshi Kogure, Sachiko Sone, Yuichi Shibahara. Directed, written by Yuya Ishii.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Yukihiro Okimura; editor, Naoichiro Sagara; music, Takashi Watanabe; production designer, Tomoyuki Maruo. Reviewed at Busan Film Festival (A Window on Asian Cinema), Oct. 13, 2011. (Also in London, Tokyo, Vancouver film festivals.) Running time: 109 MIN.

With

With: Riisa Naka, Aoi Nakamura, Ryo Ishibashi, Keiko Saito, Miyoko Inagawa. (Japanese, English dialogue)

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more