Sawako Decides 川の底からこんいちは (2010)

Sawako Decides     Sawako Decides Film Poster

Japanese: 川の底からこんいちは

Romaji: Kawa no Soko Kara Konnichi wa

Release Date: May 01st, 2010 (Japan)

Running Time: 112 mins.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Writer: Yuya Ishii (Screenplay),

Starring: Hikari Mitsushima, Masashi Endo, Kira Aihara, Kotaro Shig, Miyoko Inagawa, Maki Meguro, Ryo Iwamatsu,

To call this the funniest humanist film you will see this year runs the risk of underplaying just how funny the film is. From Yuya Ishii’s sharp script to a star performance from lead actress Hikari Mitsushima as the title character, Sawako Decides is probably one of the funniest films you will see this year.

Sawako and Kayoko

– Synopsis –

Sawako (Hikari Mitsushima) has lived in Tokyo for five years, is working her fifth office job, and is dating her fifth boyfriend, who is also her boss at the office. Her life with Kenichi (Masashi Endo), her boyfriend, and his daughter from a previous marriage, Kayoko (Kira Aihara), feels like a “compromise,” and she endures each day feeling distressed about her career and love life.

One day, she receives word that her father, Tadao (Kotaro Shiga), who runs a freshwater clam processing business in her hometown, has fallen ill. There is a reason why Sawako would rather not go back home so easily, but she reluctantly decides to return at Kenichi’s insistence. But Kenichi, who had actually quit his job shortly before Sawako, uses this opportunity to come along with Sawako to her hometown with his daughter in tow.

Thus Sawako’s ordeals continue. Still, she takes over her father’s clam processing company and begins to work there, though she slowly starts to take charge of the situation and form a new life for herself

Sawako at the Clam Factory

Yuya Ishii has fast developed a reputation for crafting films that look at the social aspects of Japan and as writer/director of Sawako Decides he shows modern Japanese life. From Tokyo to the small town that Sawako dreads returning to we see a country and people in a lethargic state due to the recession. The film is peopled by characters that, although facing grim reality approach it with stoicism. Chief among them is Sawako who considers herself “lower-middle” and apologises for not having dreams. Her catch-phrase is “It can’t be helped.” Sawako’s life in Tokyo is miserable, stuck with Kenichi, a pathetic divorce, and his daughter Kayoko we wonder why she doesn’t go home.

We soon see why. Upon returning to her home town we are introduced to a family of loveable drunks and fierce countrywomen who love vicious gossip and resent Sawako’s return.

This sounds grim but the film is far from it because the characters approach their situation with personalities that are cracked by a sort of existential crisis affecting everything from gender roles to self-confidence. Forced to confront her problems is Sawako who is brilliantly portrayed by Hikari Mitsushima.

As Sawako, Hikari Mitsushima’s performance is pitch-perfect, from her near-robotic appearance in Tokyo to the emotional flowering in the final third, at every point she is human, endearing and humorous  – witness her bonding scene with Kayoko. Hikari sells the emotional developments whilst her features and physicality perfectly deliver the comedy and as a result make the plot developments all the more believable and the film compelling.

Sawako DecidesRyo Iwamatsu is hilariously inappropriate as the uncle while Masashi Endo as Kenichi strikes a balance between loveable and wretchedly indecisive. He loves to knit and acts like a needy wife whilst Sawako transforms into a husband dodging awkward conversations whilst drinking problems away. Strong comedy performances make these scenes hilarious but believable. As the film holds a mirror up to these lives we will find a resemblance to our own.

Ryo Iwamatsu as the Uncle, Masashi Endo as Kenichi and Hikari Mitsushima as Sawako

I’m confident in saying that Hikari is an actress whose career is one everybody should watch judging by her choice of roles and Sawako Decides is a perfect example of her skills. I’m also confident in telling you to go seek out this film because you will enjoy it. So go support Japanese cinema and genuinely good films.

The film is released in cinemas across the UK on the 8th of July. Check the website for Third Window Films to see venues.

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