×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Wild Berries

Though billed as a black comedy, "Wild Berries" won't have anybody rolling in the aisles: Wry irony abounds in this tale of the disintegration of a family, but the revelation of what lies behind the facade of normalcy is anything but liberating. Directed by Miwa Nishikawa, pic's tone is enigmatic and cerebral enough to garner further fest play.

With:
With: Hiroyuki Miyasako, Miho Tsumiki, Sei Hiraizumi, Naoko Otani, Toru Tezuka, Moeko Ezawa. (Japanese dialogue.)

Though it’s billed as a black comedy, “Wild Berries” won’t have anybody rolling in the aisles: Wry irony abounds in this tale of the disintegration of a middle-class Japanese family, but the revelation of what lies behind the facade of normalcy is anything but liberating. Produced by Hirokazu Kore-Eda (“Maribosi,” “After Life,” “Distance”) and directed by his former assistant director, tyro femme helmer Miwa Nishikawa, pic’s distanced, assured tone is engrossingly enigmatic and cerebral enough to garner further fest play, though it may prove too elusive for arthouse auds.

Action unfolds during about 24 hours on the day the lovely Tomoko Akechi (Miho Tsumiki), dutiful daughter and moral lynchpin of the family, brings her fiance home for dinner to meet the folks. The fiance says he’s charmed by the Akechis’ industry. But, as it turns out, the “workaholic” father (Sei Hiraizumi) has in fact been out of work for years, spending his days riding subways and guilt-tripping former colleagues into giving him money to temporarily stave off loan sharks.

Meanwhile, the mother (Naoko Otani) has been selflessly taking care of slobbering, senile grandpa; she has patiently kept up the effort until this very day, when she turns up the water in the tub she’s scrubbing to drown out her father-in-law’s last gasps.

The whole house of cards collapses at grandpa’s funeral: A drunken moneylender threatens the father, exposing his debt and deceit. The ensuing scandal sends aunts and uncles scrambling for cover, followed closely by Tomoko’s idealistic rich-kid fiance. Enter “prodigal son” Shuji, con man, thief and self-proclaimed savior of the clan.

Helmer Nishikawa has firm control of the film’s odd tone. More than any ethical dilemmas, the parents’ web of lies and betrayals attest to a profound weariness. Nishikawa is particularly good at capturing people at the point when they can no longer expend the energy involved in keeping up a social facade. Their social breakdown reads less as moral bankruptcy than as a power shortage.

Even Tomoko’s nice-girl enthusiasm feels enervated, shutdown and delusional.As the older generation founders in evasion and hypocrisy, it is sweetly conventional Tomoko and her charismatic grifter brother Shuji who ultimately battle it out for the upper hand. Despite the siblings’ genuine fondness for each other, what ensues is a struggle for the soul of the family (and by extension the future of Japan).

Thesping and tech credits are fine. Lensing by Hideo Yamamoto, unnaturally confined to entrances and exits for bulk of pic, gets a lot of mileage out of mystical finale in the woods in search of the fabled “wild berries” of the title.

Wild Berries

Japan

Production: A TV Main Union production. Produced by Hirokazu Kore-Eda. Directed, written by Miwa Nishikawa.

Crew: Camera (color), Hideo Yamamoto; editor, Ryuji Miyajima; music, Masaru Nakamura; production designer, Isomi Toshihiro; sound, Hitoshi Tsurumaki. Reviewed at New Directors/New Films Festival, New York, March 18, 2003. Running time: 108 MIN.

With: With: Hiroyuki Miyasako, Miho Tsumiki, Sei Hiraizumi, Naoko Otani, Toru Tezuka, Moeko Ezawa. (Japanese dialogue.)

More Film

  • Octavia Spencer Bryce Dallas Howard

    Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard to Reunite for Comedy 'Fairy Tale Ending'

    Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard will reunite for the ensemble comedy “Fairy Tale Ending.” Jim Hecht (“Ice Age: The Meltdown) and Tracy McMillan (“Marvel’s Runaways”) are writing the screenplay. Howard will also produce the Universal movie through her Nine Muses Entertainment alongside Eric Carlson and Susan Carlson. Seth MacFarlane and Erica Huggins will produce [...]

  • Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at DuArt

    Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at New York's DuArt Film Labs, Dies at 88

    Robert Smith, a longtime executive with New York’s DuArt Film Labs, died Jan. 11 in Montvale, N.J. He was 88. Smith spent some 62 years with DuArt, the film processing and post-production facility founded in 1922 in the penthouse of an automobile garage in Midtown. Smith rose to president of DuArt before retiring in 2015. [...]

  • Bird Box

    Los Angeles On-Location Feature Filming Surges 12.2% in 2018

    On-location feature filming in Greater Los Angeles expanded impressively in 2018, gaining 12.2% to 4,377 shooting days, according to FilmL.A. Production activity for feature films rose 15.5% to 1,078 shooting days during the fourth quarter, with 146 days coming from projects receiving California tax credits — including Netflix’s “Bird Box,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a [...]

  • 'Ghostbusters': First Look at Jason Reitman's

    Watch the First Teaser for Jason Reitman's 'Ghostbusters' Sequel

    If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, it’s time to watch a teaser for Jason Reitman’s “Ghostbusters” forthcoming film. Sony Pictures released a first look at the upcoming movie, a sequel to the 1984 classic. The footage shows a glimpse of the memorable station wagon Ecto-1. The studio announced on Tuesday that the wheels are [...]

  • Anne Hathaway

    Anne Hathaway to Star in Robert Zemeckis' 'The Witches' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anne Hathaway has closed a deal to star as the Grand High Witch in Robert Zemeckis and Warner Bros.’ “The Witches” adaptation. Variety first reported that Hathaway was holding the offer for both that and “Sesame Street,” and at the time, scheduling for both films were holding up dealmaking. With those issues settled, Hathaway is [...]

  • Film Ratings Overhauled in the U.K.,

    Film Ratings Overhauled in the U.K. With Tougher Restrictions on Sexual Content

    The body that oversees film ratings in the U.K. is tightening its age restrictions and giving movies with certain types of sexual content older age ratings. The British Board of Film Classification said the changes were in response to public demand after a consultation that took in the views of over 10,000 people in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content