The director’s cut (spanning 3 hours) is finally out and I read that the theater version (2 hours) is quite rushed so I’m glad to have watched the full uncut version. It may be quite lengthy but I feel it’s worth it. I’ve posted some impressions for the series version (which is not much different from the movie) and having watched that, I was really curious about the movie mainly due to the plot.
First of all, the plot feels different, fresh and original. I have no knowledge about Rip Van Winkle so I can’t comment on whether this has any relation to that (the director may adapt his own tale). This movie is worth watching, (not to say) enjoyable because it’s mostly grim, brooding, heavy and has a pretty complex plot, despite it looking simple on the outside, but I appreciate what it’s trying to tell.
We follow the protagonist, Nanami, a demure and soft-spoken lady who teaches part-time as well as working in convenient stores. She also gives online lessons. Her marriage with a man she meets online is short-lived, her mother-in-law making things tougher for her. Nanami comes to know Amuro, who’s basically a handyman or a fixer, when she requests his service to find strangers to fill up her wedding reception (this service actually exists in Japan). She then gets embroiled in another issue when a man accuses her husband having an affair with his girl (you can read more that in the previous post which I’ve covered).
Fast-forward to post-divorce, she is now alone, abandoned and on her own. Amuro continues to help her with finding odd jobs for her. One day, she meets Mashiro while pretending to be ‘relatives’ at a wedding (under Amuro’s company) and the two quickly become friends.
Nanami is then asked by Amuro to become a maid at a mansion whose owner is called Rip Van Winkle. Nanami doesn’t know who the owner is. Soon, Mashiro also moves in and joins her to take care of the place. Later, it becomes clear to Nanami that Mashiro is actually in the AV industry and she’s been paying the rent for the mansion. After asking Amuro, he reveals little but Nanami figures out that Mashiro is the one who hired Amuro to find a friend to accompany her and that is why Nanami is staying in the mansion with Mashiro.
Mashiro is a very lonely woman who wants companion. Though Nanami wants to leave after finding out the truth, she stays when she gets to know more about Mashiro and the reason she’s doing that. Their meeting may be arranged (by Amuro) but their friendship or shall I say…companionship, is real. I think the scenes where they both walk into a bridal shop, clad in them and going through the whole process of (make-believe) wedding ceremony together is where they are happiest. However, unbeknownst to Nanami, Mashiro has a dark secret hidden so well inside her heart, putting on a facade brimming with smiles, making Nanami think they are going to stay together forever.
Would you die together with me?
The final part of the movie is heartbreaking when Mashiro commits suicide but Nanami staying alive. Amuro receives a message from Mashiro, saying she’s going to die that night and asks for him to follow through. Amuro thinks she’s going to commit a double suicide with Nanami but he finds Nanami alive when he gets to the house, along with the funeral service guy. Through the conversations with Mashiro’s colleagues, Nanami finds out that Mashiro has been ill for some time and she doesn’t want to die from sickness so she chose this path.
Personally, it’s an eye-opener for the most part. There’s a lot of gray areas presented in this, where Amuro’s actions are teetering between right and wrong. The morality and ethics of some of his services can be questioned. What is his motivation? Money? Satisfaction from helping people? Amuro is no doubt one of the most complex characters in the movie. His motive remains ambiguous till the end, as no light is shed on his background. Understandable since Nanami is the focus, leading a turbulent life and witnessing such vivid events after meeting Amuro. Before Amuro, she has a normal and quiet life, whose presence means nothing to anyone, like a timid mouse living in a hidden corner, easily content.
While her situation may not be as peaceful as before Amuro’s appearance, one can say, he breathes life into her and we as viewers start asking questions too, what is the true meaning of life? How are we sure we’re content with our current situation? What else is there to experience?
Amuro’s presence begins to change her outlook, though she still seems meek towards the end, you can feel that she has changed. Something new is brewing. The movie also looks into a typical Japanese mindset, close-minded, rigid society as Nanami becomes victim (especially dealing with her in-laws). I like how Amuro’s actions gives a stark contrast to that, going beyond the boundaries and little by little, changing Nanami from within. Thus, begins a soul-searching journey.
P.S. I’m really intrigued by Amuro. Ayano Go shines in the role so much I wish he appears in every scene. Seriously, I would love to just sit down and have a chat with Amuro if he truly exists because he seems very enthusiastic to help people, passionate, kind, sociable, genius in reading minds or atmosphere. However, in certain scenes, he also strikes you as someone who is indifferent because, for example, the part where Mashiro wants to commit suicide and asks for his service, you can say, a ‘normal’ person would advise against it but he follows through. Showing up at the mansion, expecting to see two dead women, speaking normally as if nothing’s out of order, to the funeral guy. I begin to think, “It’s just a job for him, then.” But he also seems so eager to help people I can’t place how exactly I feel about Amuro, except he’s a very baffling character but charming. Oh and I like his dynamic with Nanami.