Hush! (2001) Movie Review

I hate to admit it, but sometimes watching an Asian drama, most notably those from China, Japan, and South Korea, is like watching paint dry, only less productive. Sometimes one can’t help but get the feeling that Asian filmmakers are so enamored with their own brand of moviemaking — stationary long takes, nonexistent motion, and lack of emotion for the sake of discretion — that they become so inflexible as to be, like their movies, permanently stuck in a state of non-progression. “Hush!”, a film by writer/director Ryosuke Hashiguchi, uses all of these filmmaking elements, but offers up something to make them worthwhile: an actual story with actual progress. And oh, actors that can actually do more than mime a mannequin helps.

“Hush!” has, at its central core, the burgeoning relationship between gay lovers Katsuhiro (Seiichi Tanabe) and Naoya (Kazuya Takahashi), and how their already delicate life is made even more complicated by the appearance of the unkempt Asako (Reiko Kataoka). After an accidental meeting with the gay couple, the emotionally unstable Asako asks Katsuhiro, who is still in the closet, to have a child with her. He’s shocked, but not as shock as Naoya, who has never even dared approach the subject.

While “Hush!” seems like the perfect vehicle with which to dissect the Japanese culture concerning the notion of being gay in Japan, apparently Hashiguchi doesn’t share this thought. The movie plays as being completely unconcern with the whole “being gay” part, which means I was somewhat disappointed by all the opportunity “Hush!” let slipped away. Although toward the end members of the threesome’s family converges for an intense showdown, the movie seems to take great pains to avoid a lot of the potential kinetic fodder that were at its disposal.

It’s obvious Hashiguchi is trying to say that the trials and tribulations of being gay means less when compared to trying to make a new relationship work in the modern world. Although I don’t know the writer/director’s sexual orientation, it is a bit suspect that Hashiguchi’s talents seems somewhat weaker when it comes to writing “regular” women. The women in “Hush!” are so abnormal that they almost come across as clich’d stereotypes. There’s the mentally unstable Asako, the obsessive stalker Nagata, the nagging mother, and the traditional sister-in-law only concern with keeping up appearances. Not exactly a great gene pool from which to choose from, natch.

“Hush!” works best when one ignores that the movie never tries to tackle any of the hard topics about being gay in Japan. It’s a very good movie with great performances by its three leads, especially Reiko Kataoka as the unpredictable Asako. It’s a short scene where she attempts to reconcile with her estranged father by taking his taxi that tells us everything we need to know about her. It also puts us completely in her corner for the rest of the movie. Although I have to admit, the actress has never smoked a day in her life, as anyone who has ever lit up a cigarette can tell about her supposedly chain-smoking character.

For light melodrama and some laughs, and if you can stand filmmaking built around a static camera, “Hush!” is a good choice. Although the film does venture off into very heavy melodrama toward the end that completely blindsides the audience. Beyond that, “Hush!” is a worthwhile experience.

Ryosuke Hashiguchi (director) / Ryosuke Hashiguchi (screenplay)
CAST: Seiichi Tanabe …. Katsuhiro
Kazuya Takahashi …. Naoya
Reiko Kataoka …. Asako

Buy Hush on DVD