First Hit: Interesting, rich, and powerful view of a Japanese family learning how to cope with and make adjustments in their lives when the status quo falls away.
Everyone in this family participates in this richly developed film of a Japanese family coming to grips with a change in the status quo.
The older son Takashi (Played by Yu Koyanagi) is rarely at home and is out trying to make things happen for himself. When he comes home we rarely engages with the family, sleeps, eats, and leaves again in search of his life.
The younger son Kenji (Played by Inowaki Kai), is smart in school and is unafraid to confront a teacher when the teacher attempts to embarrass him in front of the class. He turns the tables on the teacher and gains a great deal of notoriety in his class for his direct open truth telling. This sets the tone that he is smart and unafraid to find his way.
Megumi (Played by Kyoko Koizumi) is the dutiful wife and mother who keeps the home in place, is the model of consistency, and is always ready to have a nourishing meal ready for her family.
Lastly there is Ryuhei (Played by Teruyuki Kagawa) who is a company “Administrator” and finds himself unemployed when he is downsized.
At first he doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t tell his wife thinking he will find something else quickly. He doesn’t and the shame of being unemployed and being offered menial jobs by Happy Work employment agency aren’t helping. He dresses each day and heads out to a park square where he gets a free meal along with other homeless and unemployed people. He stands patiently in long lines at the employment agency. His family knows nothing.
However, as his mental state deteriorates things begin to happen in the family. His oldest wants to join the US Army and fight in Iraq, the youngest learns to play the piano after being told no. His wife is questioning what is going on and gets caught up with a thief who attempts to rob their home. And Ryuhei, finds a bag of money while cleaning toilets in a mall.
These bizarre twists and turns, find a resting place in the youngest son’s piano recital.
I liked the overall pacing of this film because it was unrushed and it let the characters develop. Event the smaller characters get time to develop. Ryuhei’s high school friend, who is also unemployed, has his cell phone calling himself every 15 minutes to give the look of being important. Then there is the thief’s small role. It is fleshed out enough to give a sense of not being artificial. The scenes are full and beautifully shot.
Overall: This was a well developed film showing how losing a job can affect a whole family in a culture where face is important.