You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Dear Doctor

Flirts briefly with sitcom before weaving a tight narrative that tugs at the heartstrings.

With: Tsurube Shofukutei, Eita,[cq] Teruyuki Kagawa, Kaoru Yachigusa, Kimiko Yo, Haruka Igawa, Ryo Iwamatsu, Yutaka Matsushige, Kanzaburo Nakamura, Takashi Sasano.

A medical charlatan with a heart of gold wins over the elderly inhabitants of a Japanese village in the touching drama “Dear Doctor.” Featuring a sterling perf from comedian Tsurube Shofukutei, the yarn flirts briefly with sitcom before weaving a tight narrative that tugs at the heartstrings with surgical precision. Opening on 50 screens in July, this charming low-budgeter has drawn respectable arthouse biz (some $3 million so far).

Story begins late one night in an unnamed Nipponese village, with police calming a distressed crowd. Amid the kerfuffle, cops catch freshly graduated medical student Keisuke (Eita) frantically searching a rice paddy for an apparently incriminating object. The narrative then cycles back two months earlier to Keisuke’s sensational arrival at the village.

Scheduled to begin work at a country clinic with an aging clientele, Keisuke crashes his red sports car en route, making his first meeting with Dr. Ino (Shofukutei) as a patient rather than as an apprentice. Unflustered, and as rotund as he is cheerful, fiftysomething Ino gives Keisuke hilarious firsthand experience of the folksy bedside manner that’s won over the villagers.

Director-writer Miwa Nishikawa, adapting her own novel, could have settled for easy laughs. But her script quickly clues auds in to the fact that Ino is unqualified. Sequences where the country medico charms with his earthy humor are counterbalanced by later scenes of police interviewing townspeople about him.

Drama finds its central focus midfilm, as Ino attends to aging widow Kazuko (Kaoru Yachigusa) in an extended housecall. Over beer and baseball, Ino convinces the reluctant Kazuko to consent the next day to medical tests for a mysterious — and painful — ailment. The bond of trust deepens, but so does the risk of exposure for the out-of-his-depth fraud.

The pic belongs to Shofukutei, who shines as the benevolent protag. Supporting cast is strong, but vet Yachigusa is particularly compelling as the widow who entrusts her well-being to Ino.

Though the pic is performance-driven, helmer Nishikawa employs economical visuals to advance her drama. Maintaining dramatic tension with informative as well as picturesque long shots, or just focusing on evocative objects, Nishikawa’s direction rivets the attention. HD lensing is a quality advance on the usual Nipponese indie standard.

Blues- and jazz-laden score by Japanese group More Rhythm helps keep the tone light. Other technical credits are just what the doctor ordered.

Dear Doctor


Production: An Asmik Ace Entertainment, Engine Film release of a Bandai Visual Co., Denner Systems, Dentsu, Eisei Gekijo Co., Engine Film, TV Man Union, Yahoo Japan production. (International sales: Asmik Ace Entertainment, Tokyo.) Produced by Etsuhiro Kato. Directed, written by Miwa Nishikawa, based on her novel, "Kino no kamisama."

Crew: Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Katsumi Yanagijima; editor, Ryuji Miyajima; music, More Rhythm; production designer, Keiko Mistumatsu; costume designer, Kazuko Kurosawa; sound (Dolby), Mitsugu Shiratori, Yamato Kato. Reviewed at Cinequanon, Tokyo, Aug. 12, 2009. (In Montreal World Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 128 MIN.

With: With: Tsurube Shofukutei, Eita,[cq] Teruyuki Kagawa, Kaoru Yachigusa, Kimiko Yo, Haruka Igawa, Ryo Iwamatsu, Yutaka Matsushige, Kanzaburo Nakamura, Takashi Sasano.

More Film

  • Italy's Notorious Pictures on Buying Spree

    Cannes: Italy's Notorious Pictures on Buying Spree Takes 'Vivarium,' Ups Production (EXCLUSIVE)

    Italian distribution, production, and exhibition company Notorious Pictures is on a buying spree at the Cannes Film Market where they’ve acquired four high-profile titles, including Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots sci-fi-fier “Vivarium,” which world-premiered in Critics’ Week. On the production side the expanding outfit has teamed up with Belgium’s Tarantula Productions on Islamic terrorism thriller [...]

  • Marco Bellocchio The Traitor Cannes

    Director Marco Bellocchio Talks About Cannes Mafia Drama 'The Traitor'

    Cannes veteran Marco Bellocchio’s vast body of work spans from “Fists in the Pockets” (1965) to “Sweet Dreams,” which launched at Directors’ Fortnight in 2016. The auteur known for psychodramas and for bringing the complexities of Italian history, and hypocrisy, to the big screen is back, this time in competition, with “The Traitor,” a biopic [...]

  • Director Tudor Giurgiu on Transylvania Film

    Director Tudor Giurgiu on Transilvania Film Festival Opening Film ‘Parking’

    CANNES–A poet, a romantic, and a stranger in a strange land, Adrian is a Romanian immigrant working as a night watchman at a car dealership in Cordoba. After leaving his old life behind, he falls in love with a Spanish singer who offers him a shot at reinvention. But when a money-making scheme by his [...]

  • Their Algeria

    Lina Soualem’s ‘Their Algeria’ Wins First Docs-in-Progress Award

    CANNES–Lina Soualem’s “Their Algeria” won the inaugural Docs-in-Progress Award, a €10,000 ($11,300) cash prize given out by the Cannes Film Market’s Doc Corner with the support of the Intl. Film Talent Association (IEFTA), which was presented Tuesday at a ceremony at the Plage des Palmes. Soualem’s directorial debut was chosen out of the 24 works-in-progress [...]

  • Film Review: The Orphanage

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Orphanage'

    Amusing, at times poignant Bollywood re-creations are used in “The Orphanage” much as Afghan director Shahrbanoo Sadat mixed folklore with realism in her award-winning “Wolf and Sheep,” in both cases to add heightened levels of cultural significance and an element of fantasy as necessary correlatives to hardscrabble lives. While Sadat’s second feature is something of [...]

  • Three Identical Strangers

    Film News Roundup: 'Three Identical Strangers' Feature Adaptation Taps 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Writer

    In today’s film news roundup, “Three Identical Strangers” is moving ahead, Skeet Ulrich has been cast with Tom Hanks, the “Minions” sequel has been titled and “Vegas Dave” is getting a movie. MCCARTEN ATTACHED “Bohemian Rhapsody” screenwriter Anthony McCarten will write and produce the feature adaptation of the documentary “Three Identical Strangers.” Raw, Film4 and [...]

  • Bong Joon-ho, Choi Woo-shik. Director Bong

    Bong Joon-ho's 'Parasite' Earns Five-Minute Cannes Ovation

    Just days after the announcement of the selection of “Parasite” for main competition at the Cannes Film Festival, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho warned members of the local press not to expect his film to win the Palme d’Or. He also suggested that the film was “hyper local” and possibly difficult for foreign audiences to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content