Miki Satoshi brings his brand of quirky and touching comedy to Adrift in Tokyo, a film which is based on a novel by Naoki Prize winner Yoshinaga Fujita. It won Best Script and Best Film at the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival and it is easy to see why because what starts out as a simple gentle comedy gains great depth.
Fumiya (Jo Odagiri) has been a university student for 8 years and owes money to loan sharks. One named Fukuhara (Tomokazu Miura) comes to collect. Fumiya cannot pay so Fukuhara makes a proposition: He will cancel the debt as long as Fumiya agrees to walk with him across Tokyo to the police station in Kasumigaseki, where he intends to turn himself in for a crime he deeply regrets. Fumiya accepts the deal and starts a journey which will lead them to various unusual encounters, most of all with themselves.
Adrift in Tokyo is one of those films where the title says it all. Fumiya and Fukuhara are adrift in a road movie without the road, the two travelling along the streets of Tokyo discovering things about themselves, the city and others.
The setting is a Tokyo that is both familiar and unfamiliar and full of diversity. You feel drawn into the walk as you witness a heady mix of warm and natural spaces, small cosy restaurants and home settings and neon lit night time scenes. It is an exploration of sprawl but not in the pejorative sense because the film gives mystery and depth to the urban surroundings which paints a picture of a city full of life.
Some of the inhabitants of these places are strange and as Fumiya and Fukuhara bounce from situation to situation arguing and musing about life they get drawn into unusual events. The cosplay party with a former crush, the Akihabara mother, the mysterious painter and the fake family with Kyoko Koizumi and the cute but bizarre Yuriko Yoshitaka that could come from a slice of life manga. Taken individually they are surreal but they gel thanks to the journey and the deadpan reactions of our leads.
As the two meander through the sights both Odagiri as a bemused Fumiya and Miura as a philosophical Fukuhara morph from slight comedy characters into multi-faceted people thanks to the acting, writing, and events. Over the course of the film the two reveal secrets that totally alter the audience’s view of them and give events and their behaviour a new spin. It starts with Miura being able to identify classical music by Ravel and increases in depth and experience which this gives the story increasing power.
Their performances are subtle and creep up on you. As the story draws to a close and you reach the ending the film uses this depth to serve up a punch to the gut that makes you realise how much you have enjoyed being adrift in Tokyo and being with these characters and how much of an emotional investment Satoshi has drawn from you.
And that is what impressed me most about the film. What might have been just another slight quirky-Japan film grew to become a wonderfully interesting and entertaining film where I became engrossed in the stories and locations. There emerges a balance between the humour and the emotions that draws the viewer in and ensures that as Fumiya and Fukuhara discover Tokyo and its inhabitants you want to be there with them.
DVD BONUS FEATURES:
Anamorphic widescreen transfer with optional English subtitles
70 Minute ‘Making Of’
Release Date: November 10th, 2007 (Japan)
UK DVD Release Date: 27th February 2012
Running Time: 101 mins.
Director: Miki Satoshi
Writer: Miki Satoshi (Screenplay), Yoshinaga Fujita (Original Novel),
Starring: Jo Odagiri, Kyoko Koizumi, Tomokazu Miura, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Eri Fuse, Ryo Iwamatsu, Yutaka Matsushige, Reona Hirota, Yoshizumi Ishihara, Ittoku Kishibe, Kumiko Aso
One last image for the road…