Japanese screen icon Ken Takakura’s 205th film — his 20th with director Yasuo Furuhata — casts him as Eiji, a taciturn prison instructor who undertakes a thousand-mile pilgrimage in an RV to honor a posthumous request from his wife (Yuko Tanaka), and scatter her ashes in the sea. During Eiji’s mournful trip, fortuitous encounters with an assortment of colorful, lonely characters alternate with flashbacks to happier times with his spouse; Takakura’s lugubrious mug, barely cracking a smile, effectively signals his deep affection. The actor’s popularity assures healthy B.O. returns at home, but further travel appears limited.
With Takakura’s presence enough to insure cameos by some of Japan’s foremost actors, famous faces pop up to break the tedium of the long journey (perhaps the most familiar to American auds, “Beat” Kitano as a thief masquerading as a sensitive literature professor who claims also to be grieving a dead wife, and offers solace and poetry to the bemused protag). Eiji, at loose ends, has resigned his prison post, and gets involved with almost everyone he meets, cleaning squid with food salesmen and riding out a typhoon with fisherfolk.