×

Okaeri

Japanese film critic-turned-director Makoto Shinozaki's first feature, "Okaeri," focuses its hypnotic gaze on a young woman afflicted to extremes by loneliness, forsaken ambitions and a communicational impasse in her marriage. The couple's emotional maladies are explored with understatement and intelligence in this unhurried minimalist tract. While some fest audiences may find it slow and remote, many others certainly will be drawn in long enough to appreciate the drama's odd poignancy and singular rhythms.

With:
Takashi Kitazawa ... Susumu Terajima Yuriko Kitazawa ... Miho Uemura Sakuma ... Shoichi Komatsu Man at the park ... Tomio Aoki Girl at the park ... Ayaka Horie Detective ... Taro Suwa Doctor ... Shingo Takahashi

Japanese film critic-turned-director Makoto Shinozaki’s first feature, “Okaeri,” focuses its hypnotic gaze on a young woman afflicted to extremes by loneliness, forsaken ambitions and a communicational impasse in her marriage. The couple’s emotional maladies are explored with understatement and intelligence in this unhurried minimalist tract. While some fest audiences may find it slow and remote, many others certainly will be drawn in long enough to appreciate the drama’s odd poignancy and singular rhythms.

The film’s opening section deliberately sketches the stagnant urban existence of former child pianist Yuriko (Miho Uemura), who increasingly shows signs of anxiety and mental frailty. Three years into her marriage to caring but distant schoolteacher Takashi (Susumu Terajima), she appears to have been stripped of her identity. She sits at home all day doing typing assignments, becoming quietly and inexorably unhinged.

Interrogated about the destination of her morning walks, she claims to be patrolling the neighborhood, which she says is threatened by an organization hatching a conspiracy plot. When Takashi follows her, she jumps into a parked car and drives off. Following her arrest, the police suggest she is dangerously paranoid and should be hospitalized.

Takashi’s strange, almost calm acceptance of Yuriko’s unbalanced state gives the film a steadily more rewarding dynamic. Unwilling to abandon her by having her committed, he reveals surprising reserves of tenderness, checking into a clinic with her and collapsing from nervous exhaustion when they return home. Apparently restored to health, Yuriko then begins dutifully caring for Takashi before casually stepping out to resume patrol duty.

The story’s conclusion touches unexpectedly resonant chords, introducing a possibility of hope only when husband and wife have succumbed to emotional desolation. Without straying from his darkly introspective course, Shinozaki hints at restored contact between them and a possible exit from the psychological prisons of home, career and conjugal responsibility.

Direction is stark and uncluttered, chronicling the couple’s drama in extremely long takes, mostly with static, low-angle, Ozu-style camerawork. Soundtrack also is arrestingly spare, with music limited to brief excerpts from Yuriko’s childhood piano recitals. “Okaeri” won the Fipresci (international critics’) award at the Thessaloniki fest this month and is to screen in Berlin’s Forum section in February.

Okaeri

(JAPANESE)

Production: A Bitters End presentation of a Comteg production. (International sales: Bitters End, Tokyo.) Produced by Takefumi Tsutsui, Hiroko Matsuda. Directed by Makoto Shinozaki. Screenplay, Shinozaki, Ryo Yamamura.

Crew: Camera (color), Osamu Furuya; editor, Takefumi Tsutsui; sound, Toyohiko Kuribayashi. Reviewed at Turin Young Cinema Festival (competing), Nov. 15, 1995. (Also in London, Thessaloniki, Nantes festivals.) Running time: 97 MIN.

With: Takashi Kitazawa ... Susumu Terajima Yuriko Kitazawa ... Miho Uemura Sakuma ... Shoichi Komatsu Man at the park ... Tomio Aoki Girl at the park ... Ayaka Horie Detective ... Taro Suwa Doctor ... Shingo Takahashi

More Film

  • Nuno Beato’s ‘My Grandfather’ Part of

    ‘My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons’ Marks Sardinha em Lata’s Animation Build

    Portuguese animator-producer-director Nuno Beato, whose credits include “Emma & Gui,” “Híssis” and the multi-prized “My Life In Your Hands,” will pitch a new project, currently in development, “My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons” at Bordeaux’s upcoming Cartoon Movie, the leading European animated feature forum. Cartoon Movie runs March 5-7. Combining 2D and stop-motion, [...]

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" in

    Writers Guild Makes It Official: This Is the Most Wide-Open Oscars Race Ever

    For the record, we’re in uncharted territory this Oscar season. While we still have the costume designers’ ceremony to get through on Tuesday, the Writers Guild Awards put a bow on the major guild kudos circuit Sunday night. The results have yielded what is, unequivocally, the most wide-open Oscar field in history. The major guild [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” The major television trophies went to “The Americans,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Homeland” and “Barry” for the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' No Match for China's 'Wandering Earth' Overseas

    Hollywood movies like “Alita: Battle Angel” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” are doing respectable business overseas, but they’re proving no match for foreign titles at the international box office. The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a [...]

  • ABA_062_DAU_0060_v0409.87501 – Rosa Salazar stars as

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' Wins Dismal President's Day Weekend

    Fox’s sci-fi adventure “Alita: Battle Angel” dominated in North America, but its opening weekend win isn’t leaving the box office with much to celebrate. Tracking services estimate that this will be one of the lowest grossing President’s Day weekends in years. Ticket sales are on pace to be the smallest bounty for the holiday frame [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content