It takes guts to tackle a prominent social problem in a low-key debut feature film which utilizes handheld camera, limited settings and limited cast on a microscopic budget of $5000. That’s the case with Chikuma Yasutomo, the newbie filmmaker who writes the script as naturally as it comes off, directs his film called “Now, I..” with a startling confidence and also delivers such an internally accurate performance that it feels like pure imitation. “Now, I…” somehow reminds me of Dogme 95 and its encouragement that the only reason you’re not a filmmaker is not because people aren’t giving you money; it’s because you’re not good enough, or you’re not doing it.
“Now, I…” follows the extremely reclusive life of Satoru, who barricades himself in his room, subsists on junk food, watches TV and plays video games all day and barely ever speaks to his anxious single mother. He’s a NEET, a British term for Not engaged in Education, Employment or Training which has crept into Japanese usage. His condition is much more alarming than that of a geeky guy struggling to connect with the society or finding escapism through videogames. Satoru has moved completely past that. He isn’t interested in anything. He drifts through life, wearing a wry expression and disconnecting himself from the outside world. A long period of being a shut-in seems to have robbed him of the ability to speak. One day, at the request of his worried mother, Mr Fujisawa, her former co-worker escorts Satoru to his new job at a local whinery. Of course Satoru would prefer to stay in his cramped bedroom, but his deteriorated speaking skill prevents him from denying the man’s request.
At the workplace, things don’t get better for Satoru as he ignores Mr Fujisawa’s generous attempts to strike a conversation, performs his task with stubbornness and reluctance and ignores his co-workers (therefore rejecting his own chance of extending his social circle). Satoru is simply a hopeless man who doesn’t even try to change his already miserable life.
If there is one thing I could love about “Now, I…”, it has to be the brilliant camerawork by a new filmmaker that never puts foot wrong. The camera constantly hovers at eye level, framing Satoru in an uncomfortable medium close up. As Satoru prefers shoegazing to making eye contacts with those around him, shots of the back and sides of his face dominate the film and we never gets the chance to peek into Satoru’s sad world. With the complement of naturalistic narrative, the filming style fools you into thinking that you are watching a devastating documentary about a withdrawn man who slowly crumbles his own life. Another interesting thing about the camerawork is that we are not shown the tragedy scenes directly – when Mr Fujisawa is knocked over and when Satoru’s mother dies, since the camera is busy floating around Satoru’s shoulders. It’s only when Satoru turns around that we see Mr Fujisawa is lying on the ground, just like the sudden cut from Satoru sitting mute at his mother’s bedside to Satoru starring at his mother’s body covered in white blanket. That’s a brilliant piece of elliptical editing by Chikuma to put us in his protagonist’s shoes,forcing us to feel as detached from the narrative as Satoru does from life.
Video Here: http://www.veoh.com/watch/v18536424cpxcrgzw
What the ambitious filmmaker Chikuma fails to surmount, however, is how unpleasant a person Satoru is. It’s almost impossible to have any sympathy for a 20-year-old who sulks and whines at every attempt by his suffering mother and her kind-hearted friend to drag him out of the mess. Your heart goes out to the poor mother who leaves for work every morning leaving a shrink-wrapped meal for Satoru. At many scenes you want to beat the ungrateful bastard to a pulp. It is Satoru’s repulsive behaviour that threatens the film’s ability to offer a sense of closure. “Now, I…” is nothing of a revelation or life-changing, and I’m not even sure whether or not to recommend it. But keep an eye on this budding auteur and let’s see what he could pull off with a bigger budget.