Japanese Story

Dir: Sue Brooks
2003
I’m glad I stuck with this film,
because for the first half the story really sticks close to the typical road-film crossed with romantic-drama of two people who are complete opposites finding love. Sandy (Toni Collette) is a geologist software expert who winds up accompanying an interested Japanese salaryman Hiromitsu (Gotaro Tsunashima) around the outback. She’s rude and outspoken, he’s quiet and demure. She can’t believe she’s being treated as just a tour guide, he is headstrong over where he wants to go and doesn’t care how long it takes to get there. The characters are almost stereotypical, but then the two get stuck in the outback and things begin to flesh out. The third act then throws a complete curve ball and suddenly the film takes on much emotional resonance, not just from our relationship to the characters, but our relationship to the expectations of genre.
I dont’ want to mention the third act surprise, but the film becomes a true study of grief, and not even the early scenes that would suggest a framing structure (to give us that good ol’ sense of “closure”) are found wanting in the face of events. What starts off as a story of the difficulties of bridging cultures through communication in a lighthearted way turns around and looks at the difficulties of communicating emotion, and the inability of the unaffected parties to understand just what has been lost. It’s good stuff, and it reminds me a little bit of the emotional punch of another recent Australian film, “Lantana.”
Toni Collette looked familiar and no wonder: she was the girlfriend in “About a Boy,” and, reaching back, the title character of “Muriel’s Wedding.” Blimey.

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