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After three long years of waiting Mizuki's husband, Yûsuke, returns home having drowned at sea. She is less surprised about his return than she is curious what took him so long. Through love and loss Yûsuke takes Mizuki on a journey through his past and their union...
Journey to the shore (2015. 2 hrs 07 min 51 sec) is a fantasy drama directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who also adapted the novel by Kazumi Yumoto for the screenplay, the film’s original title was Kishibe no tabi.
In tone the film has more in common with Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata (2008) than it does with his usual thriller, horror genre films. The film won the Un Certain Regard - Directing Prize at the Cannes Film Festival (2015) and the Best Supporting Actor for Tadanobu Asano at the Asian Film Awards 2016. It was nominated for a further seven awards.
The film takes the two leads back into the Japanese countryside and in many ways relies on the abilities of its two lead actors Eri Fukatsu (Mizuki) and Tadanobu Asano (Yûsuke) to hold your attention. Thankfully the two have some real chemistry and Fukatsu, especially, is able to project the sort of mixture and melancholy which her character requires.
The one leap of faith that the audience has to undertake is that to accept a culture where the dead return so often, as themselves, not as some form of evil undead, that not only do most people not bat an eye, but that their interaction with the living is so normal that some of the dead do not even know that they have failed to pass over.
Yûsuke takes his wife through the people in his life, some living, some dead, all stuck with regrets which death stops them from addressing. We meet an old newspaper distributor who spends his death still delivering the newspapers whilst regretting how he treated his wife. We meet a young widow who longs to be reunited with her husband and a woman living with the regret of not having been kind enough to her sister before her death. The two help out those they meet to find some form of resolution and along the way we discover that Yûsuke and Mizuki’s marriage was far from perfect.
In poorer hands this could have turned into one of those god awful stories which attempt to throttle you with their personal version of spirituality. In fact god, as such, does not enter into the story as the spirituality is not based on European Christianity, but on Shinto and Buddhist belief systems.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa is a wonderful director and in collaboration with his cinematographer, Akiko Ashizawa, they have created a certain aesthetic for the film which often elevates mood and nuance over action and in basic conceit the film is not dissimilar to Anthony Minghella’s Truly Madly Deeply (1990) with both women getting a second chance with their deceased partner, both needing resolution before they can finally say goodbye.
The menu screen offers up three versions of the film, although the only difference is in the audio, so you get the option of a 5.1 a 2.0, both with English subtitles and the original track with no subtitles. Here you can also play the trailer (1 min, 45 sec).
I found the film deeply moving, there are sections when it feels that little is happening, but then that is true for most of life. Sometimes the extraordinary happens against an ordinary background.
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