out of Five
Running time: 129
Japanese director Sion Sono's cautionary drama about the state of Japan started life as a manga comic adaptation, but after the 2011 Tsunami, he decided to set his tale of two outcast teenagers seeking direction in life amidst the wreckage of the earthquake.
What’s it all about?
All 14 year old Sumida (Shôta Sometani) wants to be is a himizu - a mole. Abandoned by his uncaring mother and forced to drop out of school, he's conscious that with every beating from his leech of a father (not to mention those of his father's aggressive creditors), his life is going downhill fast. What he wants is to bury himself away and concentrate on his family's failing boat business. Trying to rescue him is his besotted rich classmate, Keiko (Fumi Nikaidô) whose attempts to make his heart hers are studiously ignored by Sumida. But as events conspire against him, Sumida gradually looses all hope for the future and becomes increasingly isolated and unhinged.
Pretty boy Sometani's piercing stare, his quiet but captivating on screen presence, anchors some particularly melodramatic and heavy-handed moments. While this is undoubtedly a film concerned with pointing out how cruel Japanese society can be (Keiko's parents even construct a garishly-coloured gallows in their wish to rid themselves of their daughter), Sono's film depicts a world superficially obsessed with helping and hope post-Tsunami, but one that is really running on self-indulgence and greed, and is on the verge of breakdown. Subtlety may not be in Sono’s filmmaking vocabulary, but the scenes where his camera surveys the Tsunami wreckage are truly devastating.
Brimming as it is with crazy, quirky characters played for laughs and with bouts of repulsive violence alongside soul-staring, existential moments, Himizu can’t seem to make it’s mind up if it’s a comedy, revenge thriller, gangster flick, tragedy or an off-kilter romance; and this makes it an irritatingly messy film to watch, particularly given the numerous repetitions in the plot and the lengthy running time.
An uneven film brightened with the occasional flash of social comment. Himizu’s desolate backdrop is both real and utterly affecting; the story shoehorned around it, sadly less so.