|2012 Japan Going My Home|
I'm not at peace with having punted on this one with all the talent involved. I blame the plucky guitar soundtrack. It trivialized the whole thing, like it aspired to sounding like canned crap. Sometimes watching people make tofu and sing kumbaya doesn't work.
Summary: It is not often that a filmmaker of Koreeda Hirokazu's fame writes and directs a TV drama series. Or a list of high profile actors and actresses like Abe Hiroshi, Miyazaki Aoi, and Natsuyagi Isao that one would normally find in movies be put together for the cast. (Perhaps it was the very fact that Koreeda's name was attached to the drama that these artists signed on to act.) It is be easy to understand why Going My Home started out the fall 2012 season as the most anticipated Japanese TV drama.
The story delves into Koreeda's favourite themes of family, death and memory, is beautifully filmed, subtle in its humour and in the performances delivered by the cast unlike the dramatic, exaggerated style characteristic of TV dramas. Viewers slowly discover the characters as they go through and repeat their daily routines and interactions. Koreeda intersperses this with references to environmentalism, depopulation and big-money projects in rural areas.
Many of his films focus on the interrelational dynamics of families and, in fact, "Going My Home"shares not only themes and plot points with his 2008 film "Still Walking"but also several key cast members, including Abe, who in the TV drama plays Ryota, a mid-level ad man married to "food stylist"Sae (Yamaguchi). They live with their young daughter in Tokyo, and one of the show's signature distinctions is that, while the couple have the kind of glamorous jobs characters in TV dramas tend to have, Koreeda has purposely deglamorized them. Ryota may hobnob with big stars on the sets of his commercials but he still has to stand in line to take the bus to work. When Ryota's father, Eisuke (Isao Natsuyagi), falls ill while visiting his hometown in Nagano Prefecture, Ryota goes to visit him in the hospital, connecting with his sister and mother and getting to know the locals including his father's childhood friend, Osamu (Nishida), and his "mysterious"daughter, Naho (Miyazaki). In the process he learns about kuna, tiny mythical forest people specific to the area who act as mediums between the worlds of the living and the dead. Ryota obsesses over them to the point that each episode opens with a dream in which Ryota interacts with the little folk in his cluttered room. He persuades a client to sponsor a PR-related "search event"for kuna, seemingly as an excuse for him to spend more time in his father's hometown.
The series' hook is the relationship between Eisuke, Osamu and Naho, which remains vague but is characterized by conversations that indicate they share a secret.
At turns charming, enchanting, heartwarming, placid and dispassionate, Going My Home is much like comfort food. The slow pace does require some adjustment, for Koreeda has a penchant for digressions, many of them food related, that sometimes make it seem like nothing is quite happening although these entertaining forays help to establish relationship dynamics and family rituals.
The English subtitles are hardcoded and have additional information for non-Japanese viewers when specific Japanese cultural and culinary references are made (i.e. explaining who certain celebrities referred to in the script are, etc)