Thursday, 10 May 2012

Mitsuko Delivers: a review

There is a place in Tokyo which escaped unscathed the intense American bombing during the Second World War. Yet, the urban myth is that an unexploded bomb lies underneath the floor boards, after all those years. Will it explode? Or, rather, when?

This place, a narrow working class tenement residential alley, remained locked in a time capsule whilst the rest of the city was re-developed, has become the last refuge of those fleeing the exploding time bomb of the economic crisis affecting Japan for the past couple of decades, or so.

This place is where 9 month pregnant Mitsuko (Riisa Naka) drifts into after following the cloud which has guided her since she was a child, in a taxi she could not pay, leaving an astonished driver behind, who never knew that such a place could exist in Tokyo after 20 years driving a taxi. A dejected Mitsuko who just says “Okay” and takes a nap until the wind goes her way. A rejected Mitsuko, not even her new neighbour in her last home wants to talk to her, abandoned in California by her American GI boyfriend, who finds her way back to Japan with his still unborn child.

A Mitsuko who refuses to surrender to the bad winds.

A Mitsuko who goes back to the woman she calls Granny, the elderly lady who owns and leads this alley tenement with an iron fist that masks a compassionate soul, whom she knew as a child when her parents fled their imploded parlour business to this very place. A place which is now even more run down as it was fifteen years ago, as most of the tenants have already left, with Granny the land lady now confined to her bed. Here she also meets a grown up Yoichi (Aoi Nakamura), whom, as a child, promised he would marry her when Mitsuko and her parents left the tenement back to “civilization”. Now, the restaurant his uncle and now him runs is also reflecting the bad times, the takings are poor, customers are scarce. All being so “uncool”.

What does Mitsuko do? She just says “Okay”, takes a nap, then fills the tenement with life as old and new tenants comes in, fills the restaurant with new and returning customers, gets Yoichi's uncle Jiro (Ryo Ishibashi) to declare his love for the woman who runs the café, establishing a second love axis to the film over her own with Yoichi. “Okay” and “cool” are her two favourite words. Perhaps a reflection of not only her own relationship with that American soldier who eventually abandoned her, but also the legacy left by the American occupation of Japan after the end of the war?

Meanwhile, whilst organizing the trip of the café woman to, of all places, Fukushima, to see her infirm mother, she comes face to face with her parents, who still believe she was in California. However, Mitsuko refuses to explain herself to them, as to do that is “uncool”, is not “okay”. Finally, they all manage to go in the trip to Fukushima, with Mitsuko driving, although, so close to the birth of her child, she can hardly walk, even less drive. Yet she does it because she wants to, because she does not want to stay still, because to do so is “uncool”.

When in Fukushima, her baby finally arrives, the birth being as normal as it could be in the midst of a field and the cacophony of voices, gestures, movements of her parents and friends, including Granny, who has recovered the use of her legs, as no one knew what to do; in spite of the warning by her doctor that it would be a difficult birth.

Mitsuko Delivers, a Japanese style comedy with a sting, a metaphor of contemporary life for all of us, and which I truly enjoyed. Yûya Ishii's camera caresses as much as the faces of heart throbs Riisa Naka and Aoi Nakamura as it does with the details of life in this alley, the back pack of Mitsuko as a child, the flower that Jiro brings not only to the café woman, but also to Granny, whom he and Yoichi takes turn to care for until Mitsuko appeared in the scene.

Did the unexploded bomb under the floor boards go off?

Come and see the film, and you will know.

Mitsuko Delivers will be shown on selected British cinemas from Friday 11 of May, 2012, courtesy of Third Window Films.

Mitsuko is in her ninth month of pregnancy. Her parents (serial failed entrepreneurs) think that she's in California with the baby's GI father, and she's happy to leave them in ignorance. But she's actually back in Tokyo, broke and friendless. So she has her flat cleared, gets into a taxi she can't pay for, and follows a cloud back to the little working-class alley where she grew up. The place is pretty run-down and depressed these days, but Mitsuko's can-do, bull-in-a-china-shop attitude soon shakes everyone up. There's much to be done. The little diner needs more customers, the alley's elderly woman owner needs carers, the tongue-tied man who could never propose to the widow in the coffee-shop needs a push... So much to do, so little time before Mitsuko goes into labour. Yuya Ishii follows Sawako Decides with another breathless comic drama about a girl asserting herself when all around her are floundering.


The acclaimed filmmaker x the new muse of Japanese film

Director Yuya Ishii x Riisa Naka – two young talents join forces!

The 28-year-old film director, Yuya Ishii, has now burst on the world scene with his brilliant filmmaking. Ishii’s film ‘Mitsuko Delivers’ was featured in the 37 th Rotterdam International Film Festival and the 32 nd Hong Kong International Film Festival – an exceptional honour for a fledgling director. At the Hong Kong Asia Film Awards, Ishii was again recognized and awarded the inaugural “Edward Yang New Talent Award.”

Back home in Japan, Ishii won the Pia Film Festival Grand Prix in 2007 for “Mukidashi Nippon” (Bare-Assed Japan) and followed up with the mega-hit “Sawako Decides” (2010) for which he won the Best Director at the Blue Ribbon Awards and the Best New Director Award at the Yokohama Film Festival. His next film “A Man with Style” was again, highly acclaimed. The entire world has been enthralled with the originality of Ishii’s world that eludes categorization in any single genre.

The actress chosen to star in director Ishii’s newest venture is Riisa Naka, winner of this year’s Japan Academy Award for Best New Actress. Her film credits include “Toki wo Kakeru Shojo” (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) and “Zebraman ~ Zebra City no Gyakushuu” (Zebraman: Vengeful Zebra City) as well as a number of TV commercials. Naka meets director Ishii’s world view head on, with a boldness that belies her sweet image. Evolving as the newest muse of Japanese film, “Hara Ga Kore Nande(Mitsuko Delivers) is destined to be one of Naka’s showcase films.


Riisa Naka / Aoi Nakamura / Ryo Ishibashi

Miyoko Inagawa / Shiro Namiki / Miyako Takeuchi / Momoka Ohno / Yoshimasa Kondo / Yukijiro Hotaru / Risho Takigawa / Shigeyuki Totsugi / Ryu Morioka / Keiko Saito


Written and directed by: Yuya Ishii

Theme Song: “Ai Nante” – GOING UNDER GROUND (Pony Canyon)
Produced by: Pony Canyon Inc., PARCO Co., SHOWGATE Inc., dub Co., Toei Channel, PIA Co., Yahoo Japan Co., TOKYO FM Broadcasting Co., smoke Co., Nippon Planning Center Inc.

Planning: PARCO Co., Pony Canyon Inc.

Production: smoke Co., dub Co.

Distribution: SHOWGATE Inc.

Ⓒ2011 “MITSUKO DELIVERS” Film Partners

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