on 18 December 2011
Director Yuya Ishii received the 19th PFF PIA Film Scholarship Award for Sawako Decides which went on to win several awards including best feature and best actress awards at the Fantasia Film Festival.
The synopsis from the press release states:
Sawako has lived in Tokyo for five years, is working her fifth office job, and is dating her fifth boyfriend who is also her boss at the office. Her life with Kenichi, her boyfriend, and his daughter from a previous marriage, Kayoko, feels like a compromise she endures each day feeling distressed about her career and love life. One day, she receives word that her father, Tadao, who runs a freshwater clam processing business, has fallen ill. There is a reason why Sawako would rather not go back home so easily, but she reluctantly decides to return at Kenichi's insistence. Kenichi, however, who had actually quit his job shortly b efore Sawako, uses the opportunity to move with Sawako to her hometown with his daughter in tow. Thus Sawako's ordeal continues as she takes over her father's business and begins to work there, slowly taking charge of the situation and forming a new life for herself.
Sawako Decides is an interesting film with the basic message that when things are not going in life as you planned them, it's good to strive to be average (or "lower-middle" as Sawako puts it) and sometimes you just have to tough the bad times out. Lead actress Mitsushima Hikari plays Sawako with brilliance, going through a whole range of characteristic emotions from defiance to lethargy, love and hate whilst maintaining a darkly comic undertone and quirkiness to the whole affair. A fantastic actress and I would certainly like to see more from her in the future (and maybe I'll finally get around to watching my copy of Love Exposure). Unfortunately, the biggest downpoint to Sawako Decides is the supporting cast who are not of the same caliber as Mitsushima. I disliked Kenichi as a character which, IMO, I was supposed to, but I also disliked the way the character was portrayed by Masashi Endo.
The script was enjoyable and was written by director Yuya Ishii. It was tight, if slightly formulaic, but it did very well at developing the characters at the right moments and made good use of flashbacks to show certain moments in Sawako's life without overusing them. I'm not sure how accurate the subtitles are to the actual dialogue but they certainly seemed to show the right intention so I imagine they are very close.
Sawako Decides is definately a film people should check out, especially fans of the less 'energetic'side of quirky Japanese cinema. Whilst it isn't for everybody, the strength of the main character and the lead actress can't stop me from recommending it.
on 2 December 2012
I saw this at a Japanese Film Fest here in Ireland, and it really stuck with me, a little more than "Happiness of the Kamakuras". You have a good for nothing girl that lives in Tokyo getting nowhere fast in life. Then moves home to a rural small fishing town and becomes head of her father's fishing produce company. A lot of madness and WTF moments, and a colourful cast of fishery workers who find their new young and inexperienced boss an intriguing joke. That is until Sawako gets SERIOUS.
Watch and smile. It's the same feeling you get watching Annie or Amelie, sort of. But very much Japanese cinema.