Goya-champuru   2006   Japan Island of Light
Island of Light Image Cover
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Director:Tetsuya Matsushima
Studio:Owl 21
Writer:Tetsuya Matsushima, Hiroko Takeuchi, Keiko Uyama
IMDb Rating:7.8 (24 votes)
Duration:101 min
Tetsuya Matsushima  ...  (Director)
Tetsuya Matsushima, Hiroko Takeuchi, Keiko Uyama  ...  (Writer)
Mikako Tabe  ...  Hiromi Suzuki
Jun Fubuki  ...  Kimiko Muraoka
Kôhei Takeda  ...  Ken
Misako Ôshiro  ...  Sayo
Kazuo Kitamura  ...  Taizo Suzuki
Ryôsuke Miki  ...  Shin
Kensaku Morita  ...  
Atomu Shimojô  ...  
Yuriko Shinkai  ...  Ryoko
Mitsuru Tamaki  ...  Takuro Sawamura
Ryûzô Tanaka  ...  
Donpei Tsuchihira  ...  
Yasushi Sasakibara  ...  Cinematographer
Comments: The least one can say about this film is that it won't hurt you. It's a bit thin, borderline trite, in it's I love the magic that is Okinawa message, but it's not offensive. There's this sixteen year old Tokyo girl whose mother abandoned her when she was two; her photographer father died mysteriously a month ago ("No body, so we prayed to his camera instead. That was quite weird to see"); she's bullied at school but jumps at the first chance to join the gang by targeting her best friend as the new scapegoat (she slaps her for no reason as an initiation rite); she quits school and secludes herself in her room because she can't relate to her guardian grandparents; she joins an online sort of hikikomori group, starts texting some guy (who befriends kids in the group because he feels superior to them) and tells him she wants to die. He says "might as well, it beats living ... but why don't you come visit me in Okinawa instead". All that's in the first ten minutes or so.

The girl isn't even off the ferry to the Island of Light before she is taken under the wing of a sweet old lady, the first of the fabulous Okinawans we'll meet as the film progresses. The old lady is a delivery driver which makes it convenient for quickly introducing the young girl to the community of wonderful people who will change her life. On one of their stops a man with terminal cancer has collapsed on his front porch so the girl gets a chance to be a hero by running to the clinic to fetch a doctor (on the way there she stops to ask directions of someone who is gardening and just happens to be the collapsed man's wife). She makes it to the clinic and delivers the message but collapses herself from all the running, and it just so happens that she collapses into the arms of a woman who, well ... if you haven't figured it out by now I won't spoil it.

Ordinarily a film like this would gross me out but this one gets a pass because it never gets melodramatic or histrionic. Most of the performers come off as non-actors (but most aren't) so maybe they lacked the chops to take it to that level. Even the coincidence heavy plot didn't roll my eyes too much because it unfolds in a "country" way, just like you'd expect on the Island of Light, not by building each scene to a crescendo, which is the "city" way. The scenery of Okinawa is soothing, too. In the end just remember: the film won't hurt you.

Summary: Hiromi, attends junior high school in Tokyo. The combination of getting bullied on campus and her fathers death causes her to stop attending school. One day she is invited by her online friend, Kenmun, to visit him on Ishigaki Island. Hiromi sets out to meet Kenmun, however, Hiromi has another reason to go to Ishigaki Island. She may be able to see her mother who left when she was a child. Will she be able to find her long lost mother? More importantly, will she be able to find happiness in life?

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