Yuko, is different. I mean we all know this immediately. Her hair is short and deliciously natural and she wears no makeup and she has that intense artistic vulnerability of someone has made herself available to the world and higher, different things. A failed fashion designer cum international aid worker Yuko is now working hard labor jobs as are her family to make ends meet in the saddest of apartments in the saddest part of town in the saddest town in sad Japan. I mean really. Steel yourself.
If Yuko was living in downtown Shibuya district Tokyo and had hot pink hair and drove a 68’ moped no one would even flinch. However, this is a smaaaaaallll town. To make matters worse, and really the crux of the story is that REBEL Yuko had the nerve to go off and do humanitarian work in Iraq and was taken hostage during her volunteer time. When she was finally released and back in Japan, she is treated unbelievably harsh and cruelly for A) having the nerve to volunteer in a FOREIGN COUNTRY! And B) not having the decency to have gotten killed after the “embarrassment” of a capture. Because this is feudal Japan circa 2005.
Fusako Urabe NAILS the performance of Yuko so thoroughly that when she is ambushed by a “gang” of nerdy thugs and her hot lunch dashed on the pavement of the convenience store parking lot, every emotion – every moment is just so true. You can see this small spunky girl, who had just gotten fired from her job because of the Iraq issue completely lose it when her soup spills all over the place. She can’t fight the bullies and in fact they just all sort of seem to wordlessly shove her around, knowing she won’t fight.
Daily she endures this kind of torment and daily she looks it in the face knowing she was right, and that they, the entire Island Nation of Japan, are wrong. Directed with minimalistic realism by Mashiro Kobayashi the film goes on to tear conservative traditionalism a new one. Bitingly capturing the sadistic gossiping maliciousness of small minded townsfolk, corporate conglomerates, back stabbing girlfriends and boyfriends and the loss of the only one who supported her. Though few there are a couple of staggeringly beautiful shots that reminded me of Breaking The Waves by Lars Von Trier. It is that kind of film.