Japanese Story

| February 1, 2004

On the surface, Japanese Story looks to be a love story. And it is. But it’s not the romance you’d expect.
Toni Collette dominates the film as Sandy Edwards, a geologist who, against her will, is appointed to play tour guide to a Japanese businessman (Gotaro Tsunashima) who is interested in iron mines. At first meeting, these two characters hate each other. Sandy finds Tachibana Hiromitsu stiff, clueless and annoyingly formal; Hiromitsu finds Sandy “aggressive and stubborn” and thinks she has a “big bum.” But after their SUV is stuck in a desert bog, they forge a mutual respect, then a friendship, and then a romance.
And then, like most romances, it all goes horribly, horribly wrong in a heartbeat.
This is no Lost in Translation, although it does have many themes in common with it, mainly the alienation and surreality of being in a place so different from home. “Australia has no people, and a lot of space. Japan has many people…and no space,” Hiromitsu observes. The differences between the Pilbara Desert and Kyoto are vast…and yet, two so very different people manage to find commonality, and find love.
I completely lost it during this movie. It’s so touchingly sensuous, so genuine, and so tragic…I left the theatre shaken. This is a rather hard movie to watch…but it’s a very genuine one.

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