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Having helmed offbeat gems like “The Foreign Duck, the Native Duck and God in a Coin Locker” and the amazing “Fish Story”, Nakamura Yoshihiro is easily one of the most creative and interesting directors working in Japan today. Based on the 2007 prize winning novel “Minasan, Sayonara” by Takehiko Kubodera, his latest film “See you Tomorrow, Everyone” has a typically eccentric plot, following a guy who decides never to leave the estate he grew up in. As with most of the director’s recent efforts, the film played to great acclaim at a variety of international festivals, and has been released in the UK on DVD by Third Window Films.
The film opens in 1981, with “Fish Story” and “Sake-Bomb” star Hamada Gaku as Satoru, an innocent, though obviously somewhat troubled young man, who lives in a government built housing complex which comes complete with a school, shops and more with his mother Hina (Nene Otsuka, “I Wish”). Unconcerned with what the rest of the world has to offer, Satoru is so happy with his life there that he vows never to leave, planning to stay in the same small apartment and to work in the local cake shop when he finishes his studies. Life inevitably moves on around him, his 106 classmates gradually all leaving, shops closing down and immigrant workers arriving, and Satoru slowly but surely has to face up to the reasons behind his obsession with staying.
The best thing about “See you Tomorrow, Everyone” is the way that Nakamura Yoshihiro takes what could have been a wacky and absurd scenario and plays it for something much more rewarding. The film is a warm, humanistic affair, and though very funny and quirky, it successfully mixes humour with emotion, drama and social commentary to great effect. A character driven affair, Satoru is very much at its centre throughout, and is a richly detailed protagonist, with his many psychological layers and the reasons behind his geographical paralysis gradually being revealed.
Taking place as it does over some 17 years, the film gives Satoru a fascinating and wholly involving journey, charting his relationships with his mother, the loner girl next door (Haru, “Yamagata Scream”) and his childhood crush, who he later becomes engaged to (Kurashina Kana, “Dreams for Sale”), as friends and family leave him behind one by one. This makes the film very moving, though in a pleasingly non-melodramatic manner, Nakamura never explaining everything and showing restraint when tugging at the heartstrings. Hamada Gaku is perfect in the lead role, bringing Satoru to believable and sympathetic life with just the right mix of naiveté, angst and hope (not to mention a touch of creepiness), and this similarly gives the film a considerable emotional boost.
There’s more going on in the film than Satoru’s personal struggle, and Nakamura skilfully weaves in a variety of other themes, dealing with social and economic change in Japan following the boom of the 1980s. Crucially, though the film shows a great attention to detail when it comes to depicting the past, it never wallows too much in nostalgia, taking an unromanticised approach and working in a fair amount of harshness. A number of subplots involving the other inhabitants of the estate also help to keep things varied, in particular Satoru’s later bonding with a young South American girl who has serious problems of her own. With a fairly long running time of two hours, the film does have the odd lapse in pace, though Nakamura generally avoids this by both breaking up and enhancing the drama with some very funny and well-timed laughs, as well as an entertaining running plot thread about Satoru’s attempts at martial arts.
“See you Tomorrow, Everyone” is another fine outing from Nakamura Yoshihiro, and a unique, captivating film that works on many different levels. Anchored by Hamada Gaku’s fantastic performance, it’s an alternately moving, funny and thoughtful experience, and should be enjoyed by all fans, not only of the director, but of Japanese cinema.
Yoshihiro Nakamura (director) / Takehiko Kubodera (based on the novel by), Yoshihiro Nakamura, Tamio Hayashi (screenplay)
CAST: Gaku Hamada … Satoru