While resources that deal extensively with alcoholism are the best source of tips for helping alcoholics, some films or even TV shows offer something just as useful. Mainichi Kaasan (also called Kaasan, Mom’s Life) is a family movie based the life of Rieko Saibara (Kyoko Koizumi) who is a mangaka and often has to take care of her two children by herself. Her manga and anime shows are funny in a light-hearted way, but somehow carries a sad nostalgia to them. That could be attributed to her husband, Yutaka Kamoshida (Masatoshi Nagase), who was a war-time photographer. His job takes him all over the world and is often away from home. He’s now trying to be a writer, but his love for booze often leads him to the hospital rather than to his work or family. The movie focuses on Reiko’s family life, and her complicated love for a man who she loves but yet hates at the same time. This is a complex family film that might appears casual and mundane, but quietly presents itself as one with a much darker veil.
Saibara is a strong willed woman who, with the help of her mother, takes care of the children and her husband quite well. With all the problems of motherhood and the constant pressure of meeting her manga deadlines, life is a always a big hectic. A large part of the movie present Saibara’s struggle with being a mother and a mangaka. Unfortunately, she works from home so there is no escape from both roles even if she wants to. However, she takes on every new challenge with gusto and (usually) complete the job in one piece. This part of the movie closely resembles what a typical Mainichi Kaasan episode or chapter is like. Midway through the movie, the wall finally comes down and viewers get to see the real life behind the edited story.
The truth is, Saibara’s husband is an alcoholic and for the longest time she tries to cover up the fact to herself, to her children, and to her readers. She has always depicted the father in her story in a positive light albeit he may appears a little strange. Constantly popping up and then quickly disappearing from their lives, the husband’s struggle with his drinking problem is actually the better part of the movie and the most comedic at times. As a photographer who records the images of war, Kamoshida has seen some very graphic images that continues to trouble him. When his memories of war merge with those of his family, he realized he has to take control of the situation even if the walls are crumbling around him.
The movie portrays Saibara’s ongoing crazy life and only glimpses of her husband’s inner demons. This, in turn, mimics the problem between the couple. Treated for alcoholism, Kamoshida’s problem actually appears to be more complicated and more similar to depression. Though the movie only touches lightly on the subject, depression and other mental illnesses are greatly overlooked in Japan and most people do not seek treatment for fear of being look down upon. Kamoshida hides the fact that he sees strange visions from his wife. She then simply thinks he must be drinking too much again and is seeing things. While the movie has some good points to tell about the issues faced by a modern Japanese family, the director never truly decides if the movie is a good-nature family movie, or a darker version of that. Funny moments with the kids are then followed by black and white scenes of war-torn countryside. The effect is jarring and disruptive. Overall, not a bad film but could be better.