Koji Fukada’s Hospitalité is a lovely indie comedy that manages to explore Japanese family dynamics, xenophobia and gender roles within a whimsical 96 minutes. The Kobayashi family runs a small printing business, with Mikio (Kenji Yamauchi) running the business and his wife, Natsuki (Kiki Sugino) who helps with the accounting. Along with Mikio’s daughter from a previous marriage, Eriko (Erika Ono) and Mikio’s recently divorced sister, Seiko (Kumi Hyodo), all of them live with one another, as a small, tight knit and happy family unit. Things slowly get turned upside down, when the son of the initial financier of Mikio’s business, Kagawa (Kanji Furutachi), suddenly shows up and asks for a job at their company. Shortly after this, he imposes on moving in and bringing along his false wife, Anabelle (Bryerly Long) and a bunch of other people to the Kobayashi’s home. All of these things truly test the limits of the family and see if they’re able to truly commit to the act of hospitalité.
Hospitalité excels in its storytelling, through the use of its quirky characters and the actors that bring them to life. While certainly causing plenty of problems for many in the film, Kanji Furutachi’s performance as Harada, is both charming and magnetic. From the very moment we see him interact with Mikio, you can’t help but like the guy. Kiki Sugino’s performance is also a gem within the film, as the obedient housewife, that wishes for something more that is exhilarating and outgoing in life, in comparison the dullness with Mikio. As soon as we are introduced to her character, we can see that her life is somewhat unhappy, with a major factor probably being that Mikio is older than Natsuki. The films ending truly shows them having to deal with their own issues, along with coming head to head with Japanese issues with Xenophobia.
After Kagawa is accepted into the Kobayashi’s home, he begins to brings tons of foreigners to live with them in their home. While at first, the Kobayashi’s are very angry that all these people are living in their house, but begin to change after they begin to party and dance with everyone. This highlights an attempt to try and come to an understanding of other cultures and other people. This is very much an alien thought within Japanese culture, truly enforced by the Kobayashi’s neighbor’s calling the cops, but the film explores the hope and understanding that can come from accepting one another and beginning to form a dialog, in order to further relationships and exploring one another’s cultures.
Koji Fukada certainly shows plenty of promise, as both a writer and director, with his very first outing in Hospitalité. Not only is it a touching comedy about a family, but also about serious issues within a society, that make it a solid film that one is sure to enjoy. Recommended!