Japanese Story may fall into the love it or hate it category, but for my money it’s one of the best films of the century and marks director Sue Brooks out as a real talent to watch.
The less said about the plot the better to get the most out of the film, which makes it a bit of a hard sell and may account for its low international takings. Suffice it to say, a less than happy Toni Collette draws the short straw and has to drive arrogant young Japanese businessman Gotaro Tsunashima around the Australian Pilbara desert while trying to sell a computer software program, only to find herself on an emotional journey that takes a genuinely unexpected turn (and not the unexpected turn you’re expecting). It’s ultimately powerful and affecting stuff, driven by a remarkable career-best performance by Collette and filmed with an emotional and visual assurance that is quite remarkable. Ian Baker’s Scope photography is superb, giving a sense of the vastness of the unforgiving landscape that drives the two together, and neither director nor editor is afraid to use long takes when they’re needed. Pretty damn amazing.
It's worth tracking down the Tartan DVD release of this one if you can: where the Prism release is pretty much bare bones, Tartan's DVD includes an interesting commentary, one deleted scene (the additional deleted scenes on the US disc are all scenes cut from this version for the US market), trailer and an informative Q&A with the film's writer, director and producer, as well as a superb 2.35:1 transfer. However, do bear in mind that the Region 1 NTSC version appears to be the cut version, with the deleted scenes included as extras.