Japanese Story (tbc)

Film image
Sue Brooks
Toni Collette

The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner26/11/2003

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 107 mins

Beautifully shot and extremely moving, this is an affecting drama with a strong central performance by Toni Collette.

There have been a number of decent Australian films this year and Japanese Story is no exception. It’s also heartening to see Australian stars such as Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding), Rachel Griffiths and Guy Pearce (The Hard Word) still making quality films in their native country, as opposed to just taking whatever Hollywood throws at them.

Workaholic Geologist Turned Babysitter

Toni Collette stars as Sandy, a thirtysomething, workaholic geologist, frustrated with her obituary-obsessed mother and her crappy love-life – it’s strongly hinted that she has difficulty opening up to people.

When her business partner (and ex-lover) forces her to babysit a Japanese businessman (Gotaro Tsunashima) on a tour of the outback, she’s not best pleased. First, the two can barely speak each other’s language and second, he appears to have mistaken her for his driver.

Eventually, after an incident where the car gets bogged down in the desert, the pair begin to warm to each other and the film becomes part road movie, part ‘opposites attract’ comedy drama. However, at a certain point, something happens that sends the film into a completely different direction, packing a severe emotional punch.

Toni Collette is perfectly cast as Sandy and gives a truly stunning performance – she got her first break as Muriel in Muriel’s Wedding, playing a character who somehow seemed more and more beautiful onscreen as the film progressed and she came out of her shell.

She performs a similar trick here, gradually opening up to Tsunashima until she’s forced to confront her feelings in a devastatingly unexpected way. Tsunashima is equally good and an interesting choice for the part, as there are times when he appears almost feminine.

Glorious Outback Scenery

The photography is excellent and makes full use of the glorious outback scenery, adding considerably to the atmosphere of the film. Nature, emotion and sexuality are explicitly linked in the film – at one point Tsunashima says “You have shown me something beautiful” and you can’t help but agree.

The script, by Alison Tilson is impressive and there’s a lot of humour in the first half of the film, ensuring that you’re emotionally invested in the characters when the change of direction occurs. It’s an difficult trick to pull off but Tilson and director Sue Brooks handle it well.

In short, Japanese Story is a moving drama with an impressive central performance by Toni Collette. Recommended.

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Content updated: 22/08/2018 04:38

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