Dir.: Masaaki Kudo; Cast: Kotone Hanase, Yumeni Ishida, , Yumemi Ishida, Yoshiro Sakuma; Japan 2022, 128 min.
This epic drama from Japan’s Masaaki Kudo would be very much at home in the 1950s but despite the conventional aesthetic and narrative, is still manages to be quite overwhelming. In this age of minimalism and under-developed scripts, Kudo bucks the recent trend with an emotional blockbuster full of poetry and lyricism and told in a series of chapters that chart the heroine’s downfall. .
In Okinawa, seventeen year-old Aoi (a brilliant Hanase) has left school and works as a hostess in a nightclub, leaving her two-year old son Kengo in the care of her husband Masaya (Sakuma). Masaya is only interesting in gambling and drinking – and is on the verge of being fired from his job, leaving parental duties to Aoi’s grandmother.
Aoi tries to hide money from her husband, but he beats her up brutally, and eventually due to Masaya’s laziness and incompetence, the family slides into debt, and faces eviction. Aoi’s grandmother blames her granddaughter for the family’s disgrace, leaving only Mio (Ishida), a work collegue, to come to her rescue. But when Masaya gets in trouble with the police, Aoi becomes embroiled in a no-win situation with the authorities and she has to relinquish her job at the nightclub, and work as an escort as her life gradually implodes due to no fault of her own.
In this male-dominated society, Aoi is literally consumed by the men in her life, who exploit her to serve their own needs. While the feminism angle is under-played, Kudo never leaves us in any doubt at to his intentions. Set on the widescreen and in intimate close-up, A Far Shore contrasts the glittering night-scapes of the Japanese city with the squalor of ordinary people’s lives. DoP Takayuki Sugimura’s images of the seaside are a fitting highlight his third feature film. AS
KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2022