Review: Japanese Story (2003)

Japanese Story (2003)

Directed by: Sue Brooks | 102 minutes | drama | Actors: Toni Collette, Gotaro Tsunashima, Matthew Dyktynski, Lynette Curran, Yumiko Tanaka, Kate Atkinson, Bill Young, Reg Evans, George Shevtsov, Justine Clarke, Igor Sas, Mike Frencham, John Howard, Phil Bennett, Heath Bergersen

In ‘Japanese Story’ the unmistakable protagonist is the vast and impressive Australian landscape. The story of the romance between an Australian geologist and a Japanese businessman resembles a fill-in exercise in support of the beautiful shots of the Australian outback. That the two are attracted to each other is not very credible, but a crisis situation can do strange things to people.

That the story raises more questions than it answers is the film’s biggest pitfall. Storylines are not well developed and leaps and bounds are made too big for crucial twists and turns. The dramatic ending of the film will leave many viewers on their roof. A romantic road trip suddenly turns into a nightmare. Collette’s nagging with her dead Japanese lover is almost too harrowing and exhausting to watch.

Besides the fact that the romance between Collette and Tsunashima doesn’t seem very believable, there are other weaknesses in the story. That people go into the Australian desert without taking into account possible car breakdown, and therefore without supplies, is completely illogical. Yet that is exactly what happens in this film. The scenes in which Collette poses as a kind of widow of her deceased lover after a romance that lasted a few days are misplaced. It is logical that she wants to give her feelings a place, but that she feels neglected because she is not involved in arranging the funeral is completely nonsensical.

The presence of Toni Collette is also what makes watching this film somewhat worthwhile. This born actress has beautiful roles to her name in films such as ‘Muriels Wedding’, ‘The Sixth Sense’, ‘The Hours’ and ‘About a Boy’. In ‘Japanese Story’ she aptly portrays the geologist Sandy as a woman who does well in the man’s world of mining. She is one of the boys, without losing her femininity.

‘Japanese Story’ is, although visually a feast to watch, a no-brainer. Despite this, this film was buried under the Australian film awards. Maybe 2003 just wasn’t such a good movie year for Australia. Or were they impressed by this attempt by director Sue Brooks to transcend the old sore in the relations between Japan and Australia, created by the Second World War, with this love story.

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