River
For those who like quiet, contemplative work
By: Rob Schwartz | Mar 17, 2012 | Issue: 938 | No Comments | 1,027 views

© 2011 ギャンビット

Since he won the Grand Prize at Tokyo International Film Festival in 2003 for Vibrator, Ryuichi Hiroki has been consistently one of the best filmmakers in Japan. He’s put his distinctive touch on both documentaries and fiction pieces, which generally examine the alienating nature of modern society and the strategies people use to break through that loneliness. His 2005 piece Yawarakai Seikatsu (It’s Only Talk) received plaudits from the critics (including this one) while snatching the Grand Prix at the Singapore International Film Festival that year. The present work delves even deeper into alienation and depression, perhaps too deep, but this is not surprising in light of the disasters of a year ago.

River focuses on Hikari (Misako Renbutsu), a woman in her early twenties whose boyfriend was murdered in the Akihabara massacre of 2008. Clearly unable to function due to grief, the film follows Hikari as she wanders the Akiba streets, aimlessly. She runs across a photographer and is even recruited to work in a maid café (though she quits immediately). Finally, she meets a young man whose seems to be as damaged as she. His horrible break from his parents has left him bitter but now he must deal with the fact his town has been destroyed by the 3/11 tsunami.

Meditative, touching and rather meandering, River is not for everyone; but for those who like quiet, contemplative work this will be food for thought.

(89 min)

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