Angry Son 世界は僕らに気づかない Dir: Kashou Iizuka [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

Angry Son      Angry Son Film Poster

世界は僕らに気づかない Seikatsu wa Bokura ni Kidzukanai

Release Date: 2022

Duration: 112 mins.

Director: Kashou Iizuka

Writer: Kashou Iizuka (Screenplay),

Starring: Kazuki Horike, GOW, Masafumi Shinohara, Tomoka Murayama, Kenji Iwaya,

Kashou Iizuka is a transgender writer, director and cinematographer whose works, like his 2011 Pia Film Festival Special Jury Prize-winning autobiographical debut Our Future, are concerned with the existence of people who don’t fit neatly in society. In 2022, he has two films out, Futari no Sekai, a drama involving transgenderism, and Angry Son, in which he humanely and somewhat comedically tackles immigration and the mixed-race experience through the prism of a single-parent family where parent and child get on like cat and dog but for the worst reasons.

The titular angry son is Jungo (Kazuki Horike), an 18-year-old high school student who lives in rural Ota City, Gunma Prefecture. With his face set almost permanently to glower, he radiates sullen anger, an emotion that is often aimed at his vivacious but lonely Filipina mother Reina (singer and actress GOW) as he picks up on her mistakes in her struggle to run a single-parent household while also sending money back home to her family. All he seems to do is snipe at Reina and demand information on his absent father while she entertains guys at Filipino bars and looks for love. Fortunately, she has a feisty attitude and is quick with a comeback for anyone who shows disrespect and sometimes these comebacks are so spicy and outrageous you cannot help but laugh.

From our perspective and the more accepting adults around her, Reina’s larger-than-life attitude is fun to be around but for Jungo, it is infuriating, sometimes comically so, as all he can do is grit his teeth over her less-than-Japanese behaviour, bow, and then apologise over misunderstandings even at times when she is rolling her sleeves up ready for a fight. The film maintains this relationship dynamic for most of its runtime but occasionally his attitude pitches so far into hostility – screaming matches and praying to God in the local Catholic church for her disappearance! – that audiences will start to think of him less as an angry son and more of an asshole brat.

Angry Son Film Image

Outright dislike of the main character is avoided, however, by making him the butt of jokes as his bravado gets undercut by goofy accidents and forceful responses from many adults who cut him down to size. He is also made sympathetic in some ways such as showing how he still has some childlike qualities – he clings to a stuffed animal while in bed – and his mother’s constant love because, at the core of the story is a deep connection between mother and son.

While Jungo would never admit it, both he and his mother are mostly cut from the same cloth as their fiery tempers and their shared love of manju make clear. The key division between them lies in his background as a mixed-race Japanese person and in his response to the prejudice that he faces. In analysing this, Kashou Iizuka tackles a difficult subject but remains an empathic filmmaker by keeping the characters responsive to specific situations that show how prejudice works to marginalise people while also continuing to show how they fit into their community in complex ways and so as the story gets to the root of Jungo’s anger through naturally introduced examples of division, it never breaks the immersion of watching real life by feeling didactic or contrived.

While the mainline plot is about Jungo’s search for his father, a Japanese man he has only ever known through child-support payments, Iizuka ties this together with instances of both he and Reina navigating xenophobia, the difficulties in being a single-parent household where the adult’s grasp of Japanese isn’t perfect, and moments of racism. These moments are realistic and are used to create various arguments between mother and child but they also steadily build up to show how a low-key hostile atmosphere based on ostracising those who are different would engender anger on the part of the young man and sustain the negative feedback loop we are watching.

Eventually it becomes clear that a lot of Jungo’s anger is because is lonely on some level and he has internalised negative perceptions of foreigners and has become reactionary towards his mother. Desperate to be Japanese, he persecutes her. This is shown in one of the more upsetting scenes where he sides with a racist in their accusations of Reina being a thief to which she responds, forcefully, thankfully, “Japanese call foreigners criminals, and you’re the same. You’re just a bigot.” That moment felt like a slap in the face as a viewer in a scene that was already off-the-scales painful to watch but the shock of the comment for Jungo, when coupled with his search for his father introducing him to more of his mother’s past and her culture, organically leads to the two bridging the division between as he comes to accept her.

Angry Son Film Image 2

As a title, Angry Son has impact! It does a lot to describe the story and the tenor of the lead character’s behaviour but the original Japanese title, which translates into, “the world doesn’t notice us,” also holds a profound meaning as it catches the characters’ social circumstances and how mainstream society chooses to treat immigrants and ignore the negative interactions. This is reflected in Jungo’s character arc as he transitions from being a teen who is perpetually angry at his mother into a more understanding one as his search leads him to learning more and becoming empathetic.

Beyond this profound but adroitly written show of how discrimination works and overcoming it, the film offers more hopeful looks at people learning to live together as Jungo is in a gay relationship with another guy and many characters are supportive without it feeling like it is forced through platitudes. People take it in their stride and racist bigots eventually get overwhelmed by multiple examples of people showing respect and empathy. It ends up giving the film a positive message that viewers can learn from. In short, Iizuka replaces anger with love through fully fleshed-out side characters and our central duo and it was so moving to see that I cried.

I cannot emphasise enough how great the writing is in getting into the heart of such complex issues but what really sells it is the acting of the cast who are all good, particularly Kazuki Horike and GOW who are in their first leading roles as they manage to balance each other out in scenes requiring big emotions while also delivering the quieter moments that reveal what is going on in the interior of their characters. Delivering both comedy and drama, the two show wide range and it is a pleasure to watch them and the audience will remain firmly on their side no matter how angry their characters get.

Angry Son is in the Competition section of the Osaka Asian Film Festival and was screened on March 12. It’s next screening is March 17.

2 thoughts on “Angry Son 世界は僕らに気づかない Dir: Kashou Iizuka [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022]

    1. Thanks for reading my review 😀

      It is the best Japanese film at the festival. It has so many emotions and so much depth to it. The cast are all loveable, too. Mostly 😉

      But yeah, this would be a great big-screen film to see and feel with an audience.

      I hope you can watch it and have a good time. If you do, let me know what you thought!

      Also… If you’re interested…

      I rewrote my review and interviewed the director for V-Cinema Show:

      Re-review: http://www.vcinemashow.com/angry-son-japan-2022-oaff-2022/
      Interview: http://www.vcinemashow.com/interview-with-kasho-iizuka-director-of-angry-son-oaff-2022/

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