A wonderfully subtle black comedy on the Japanese family and cross-generational misunderstandings, “High School Girl’s Friend” is limited in its audience by being made on DV for local TV. It is, however, a timely reminder of director Tetsuo Shinohara’s talent in a year that sees the release of his dreary feature “Inochi” — adapted from work from the same writer, Korean-Japanese Miri Yu. (Both titles screened in the Montreal fest, with “Inochi” in a competition slot.)
Veteran Tsutomu Yamazaki, one of Japan’s most reliable actors, is superb as Genichiro, a retired widower who’s so bored with his life and troublesome family that he’s often contemplated suicide simply to get some peace. Then he meets Mina (Aki Maeda), a pregnant friend of his pesky teen granddaughter and, simply for some amusement, organizes a scam so she can get the coin she needs for an abortion. Yamazaki, so good in Yoshimitsu Morita’s “Copycat Killer,” gives a perf of crafty dignity that anchors the pic’s tone, aided by spot-on casting in other roles. DV image is sharp on the 2001 production, with visuals classically composed.