Romaji: Hara Ga Kore Nande
UK Theatrical Release Date: 11th May 2012
Running Time: 109 min.
Director: Yuya Ishii
Writer: Yuya Ishii
Starring: Riisa Naka, Aoi Nakamura, Ryo Ishibashi, Shiro Namiki, Miyoko Inagawa, Miyako Takeuchi, Momoka Oono, Yoshimasa Kondo, Yukijiro Hotaru, Keiko Saito
After watching Yuya Ishii’s 2010 film Sawako Decides I was struck by how his sharp script led to humorous and truthful observations of human nature while his naturalistic direction gave the actors ample room to bring out great comic performances so it was something of a surprise when I found Mitsuko Delivers a shallow experience.
Mitsuko (Naka) is a young woman who is nine-months pregnant, broke and alone in Tokyo. Her parents think that she’s in America with the baby’s GI father but she’s actually in dire straits as she is forced to move out of her apartment and yet she remains positive and believes that things will turn out alright. She hops in a taxi follows a cloud back to the ramshackle and destitute working-class alley where she grew up and finds her arrival and her get-up-and-go attitude soon compel the locals to roll up their sleeves and restore the alley to its former glory. Soon, old sweet-heart Yoichi (Nakamura) and his uncle Jiro (Ishibashi) find their restaurant reinvigorated and old landlady, Kiyo (Inagawa) remembers that Mitsuko was always absent-minded.
Mitsuko is not as saccharine sweet as most “home dramas”, its gentle surrealism gives it an edge but it does not imbue it with a vivid identity of its own. Although we get themes such as the importance of family and a championing of back to basics communitarianism of the past, it is put through Ishii’s filter of quirky, satirical humour. The tenement Mitsuko returns to is an old fashioned place (the only place that survived an air raid during World War II). It is an environment engineered to evoke nostalgia but there is an unexploded bomb lurking to keep things interesting. While the characters’ exist in the reality of a country undergoing economic hardship and wallowing in the past they are stylised, aimed at selling the message that “now more than ever we have to help each other and face the future.”
“Clouds drift so aimlessly, just like people.”
Adding to the slyly rebellious feel is our protagonist Mitsuko who isn’t your stereotypical good Japanese girl – forceful and adventurous, she doesn’t have much common sense but overflows with confidence. She radiates a good nature, living with the belief that she has to “be cool” and help those in need even if they don’t want help or it hurts her. She allows herself to become an object to help others – maid, life-coach – and finds herself aiding life’s losers. That someone in a situation like hers forcefully brings comfort to people who would look down on her provides most of the comedy and life of the film.