#Manhole (2023) Berlinale 2023

February 21st, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Kumakiri Kazuyoshi | Cast: Nakajima Yuto, Nao, Nagayama Kento, Okada Michitaka | Japan: 99′

Another nail-biting psychological drama along the lines of 127 Hours this time sees a man trapped down a manhole, Japanese style, and determined to prevail despite the odds.

The crisis sends the central character down-spiralling into a dark night of soul-searching with director Kumakiri Kazuyoshi adopting a gritty and hard-edged slant to his narrative in place of the more sleek treatment that Danny Boyle’s gave his 2010 outing with James Franco as the victim.

Professional office worker Shunsuke (Nakajima Yuto) is on the verge of getting married and has been celebrating his forthcoming nuptials at a surprise celebration thrown by his colleagues. In an alcoholic haze he trips directly into an open manhole and later comes to, relatively unscathed but unable to avail himself of a rather dodgy ladder placed by the workmen, due to sustaining a leg wound.

As luck would have it Shunsuke still has a fully-charged mobile at his disposal and uses this to launch an SOS attempt via his ex Mai (Nao) and then has a brainwave of presenting himself as female, potentially hoping for better traction as a ‘damsel in distress’. And this is where it gets technical because his GPS locator is not picking up on his actual whereabouts making it impossible for the emergency services, or friends, to locate him. Kazuyoshi then evokes a seething sense of desperation mixed with the absurdity of the situation as Shunksuke is  forced to spend hours tapping furiously on his ‘phone in the dank and grimy confines of his underground prison as his soul is laid bare by overthinking his life and his past ‘crimes and misdemeanours’ in a quirky but effective situational thriller. MT





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