Friday, March 08, 2013


Based on the novel by Teru Miyamoto, Maborosi is the story about a young woman who deals with the loss of her husband as she is trying to raise her newborn child. While dealing with grief, she tries to start a new life as she begins a relationship with a widow. Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda and screenplay by Yoshihisa Ogita, the film is about loss as well as the journey to move forward just as a new phase in life is about to begin. Starring Makiko Esumi, Tadanobu Asano, and Takashi Naito. Maborosi is a captivating drama from Hirokazu Koreeda.

The film is about the life of this young woman who loses her husband three months after their child is born as she tries to deal with his death years later after marrying a widower and living in a seaside town. Though it is this simple story about grief, it is also about a woman trying to figure out why her husband had supposedly killed himself as she also ponders about her grandmother’s disappearance when she was just a child. In the aftermath of this loss, the woman known as Yumiko (Makiko Esumi) seems to finally get her life in order as she marries a widower in Tamio (Takashi Naito) where things seemed fine. On her return to Osaka to attend her brother’s wedding, memories of her first husband appear as she becomes distant and ravaged with grief over the loss she had faced.

The film’s screenplay takes place in the span of a several years as it begins with Yumiko’s first encounter with loss when her grandmother just suddenly disappears when she was just a child. Her relationship with her longtime childhood friend Ikuo (Tadanobu Asano) that later spawned a happy marriage and the birth of their son Yuichi seemed to calm things down until Ikuo’s death. Then the story moves years later as Yuichi has become a few years older and Yumiko seems to get her life back on track as she and Yuichi move to a small seaside town to live with Tamio and his daughter. Yet, the specter of death starts to loom following Yumiko’s brief return to Osaka as she comes back troubled while worrying about the people around her.

Hirokazu Koreeda’s direction definitely recalls a lot of the striking compositions of the revered Yasujiro Ozu in terms of its framing and evocative images where the camera stay still. While Koreeda does utilize a few tracking shots in some instances to capture a moment of joy or in the realm of melancholia. The direction is more about this woman’s grief as she is always remaining still in her surroundings as she is just contemplating all of the loss she had been through. Even as the film’s third act has her dealing with that loss as well as worrying about those around her where Koreeda uses some medium wide shots to establish her distance. Along with some entrancing wide shots and other stylistic compositions, Koreeda displays a sensitivity to the way he creates images while keeping the performances low-key in order to explore that world of grief. Overall, Koreeda creates a truly intoxicating and haunting film about death.

Cinematographer Masao Nakabori does excellent work with the film‘s colorful yet slightly-static photography from the sunnier look of Osaka to the more naturalistic yet low-key look of the seaside town with some wonderful interior lighting schemes to help set the mood. Editor Tomoyo Oshima does terrific work with the editing by maintaining a very straightforward approach to the cutting to play out Yumiko‘s anguish. Production designer Kyoko Heya and set decorators Keiji and Yoshihito Akatsuta do nice work with the look of Tamio’s home as well as the old home that Yumiko used to live in.

Costume designer Michiko Kitamura does some fantastic work with the costumes as a lot of the characters wear black clothes to establish that air of loss while putting on some colorful clothes to display the sense of happiness they feel. The film’s music by Cheng Kwan Ming is truly exquisite for the melancholia that is captured as it features some somber piano pieces and some evocative folk-based music to play out the tone of the film.

The film’s cast is brilliant as it features some notable small roles from Naomi Watanabe as Tamio’s daughter Tomoko, Mutsuko Sakura as an old woman Yumiko meets, Akira Emoto as Tamio’s father, Midori Kiuchi as Yumiko’s mother and Gohki Kashiyama as Yumiko‘s young son Yuichi. Tadanobu Asano is terrific in his small role as Yumiko’s first husband Ikuo who provides Yumiko a lot of happiness early in the film until he disappears. Takashi Naito is excellent as Yumiko’s second husband Tamio who tries to make Yumiko happy while being baffled by her sudden distance towards him. Finally, there’s Makiko Esumi in an entrancing performance as Yumiko where Esumi brings a restraint to her role as this woman dealing with loss as well as trying to find answers over what happened as it’s a very mesmerizing performance.

Maborosi is a remarkable film from Hirokazu Koreeda that features a stunning performance from Makiko Esumi. It’s a film that truly captures the sense of anguish and confusing that arises over death as well as the feeling of uncertainty about wanting to move on. For audiences new to Koreeda, this film is definitely a worthy start as it unveils some of the themes of family that he would explore in his later work. In the end, Maborosi is a hypnotically rich film from Hirokazu Koreeda.

Hirokazu Koreeda Films: (Lessons from a Calf) - (However) - (August Without Him) - (This World) - (Without Memory) - (After Life) - (Distance) - Nobody Knows - (Hana) - Still Walking - (Air Doll) - (I Wish) - (Like Father, Like Son (2013 film)) - Our Little Sister - After the Storm - (The Third Murder) - (The Shoplifters)

© thevoid99 2013

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