Similar to The Bourne Identity, we follow a main character who is caught in a conspiracy and spends the whole film on the run. It is sprawled out as a kind of reinvention of the JFK shooting from Oswald’s perspective. Golden Slumber is definitely no nap of a movie. Great pun, eh? No, seriously though, Director Yoshihiro Nakamura’s follow-up to Fish Story is a bold one. Cerebral audiences will appreciate the plot twists and action hounds will love the sequences. It really is a film that contains a mix of different genres. Half of it plays out as a paranoid thriller, and the other half a broad comedy.
You see, someone wants the Japanese Prime Minister dead and they want to pin the assassination on our main guy. You can see the similarities between that and my JFK reference. The film’s remaining details deserve to be experienced firsthand, so I won’t get into any major spoilers or plot twists. What I will say however, is that this is one of those fantastic foreign gems that you need to find and go in without knowing anything about where it goes. I laughed out loud more than once and I teared up at the end…almost. Friendship and faith in others are strong themes here, and I can always appreciate a film that exhibits those themes.
Aoyagi, the name of our main lead, is a skinny, awkward guy who is just looking for “a way back homeward” like in The Beatles song “Golden Slumber” from which the film takes its title. The characters Aoyagi meets along the way are not your average throwaway supporting cast. I loved all the minor supporting cast, especially the serial killer character. Golden Slumber proves that Nakamura can script a potent and moving straight-forward genre film. Golden Slumber also features a song at the core of the story, it also jumps fluidly back and forth in time, which probably is a nod to Fish Story. What I did find odd, is that in this movie, most people have a positive attitude towards live and outcomes of their actions, even if bad things happen. It is a statement about Japanese society, its people and the many transformations it underwent in the last 100 years.
All in all, the time they give to character development is a little off-putting, but everything about the film was a joy to see. True, I’m still uncertain as to which characters survived and which didn’t, which ones betrayed the hero, and which ones didn’t, but things are deliberately structured to meander and not make sense. They are designed for people who love to avoid thinking and just want to consume what’s put in front of them. Knowing that the film all interconnects and that the time frame is fragmented takes a bit of the wonder out of the film because knowing the style allows you to piece whats happening together. This is not a thriller to pop in for some excitement and get lost in. It has it’s flaws, but it more than makes up for its shortcomings.