After three and a half slow paced, sepia toned hours experiencing emotional pain and anguish I still watched the credits roll. This film starts off with a man hijacking a bus and killing most everyone on it for no apparent reason. The driver and two middle school kids survive, and we spend the rest of the film watching them live with it. We watch them fall asleep watching television and other mundane matters but there is not a wasted frame in this film. There are a remarkable number of plot points to keep things moving forward but it still feels like suspended animation, like time is moving inward instead of along. Koji Yakusho is sublime and Aoi Miyazaki, at like twelve years old--and without saying a word for nearly the entire runtime--is mesmerizing. This film is a masterpiece, a journey exploring the myriad layers of trauma, of metaphorical death, and what three people endure on a path to renewal and emergence from a world of silent suffering. It will take your breath away.
In Kyushu, southwest Japan, one hot summer morning, a municipal bus is hijacked. In the carnage only three people survive: the driver, a school girl, and her older brother. Suffering from trauma, the driver disappears. The children withdraw in silence. Two years later, their mother has divorced and their father dies at the wheel of his car. They now live alone in the family home. The driver returns to town and takes up household with the children, who are soon joined by their cousin, a college student on vacation. The body of a murdered woman is discovered on the river bank; and the police suspect the driver. Soon after, he buys an old bus; fits it with beds; and invites the three young people to leave on a trip.