Japanese Story (Australia; 105 min.)

directed by: Sue Brooks
starring: Toni Collette; Gotaro Tsunashima
Japanese Story

Bob says: "I was very impressed with this film, particularly Toni Collette’s performance. She communicates so much through her body language – the way she moves, carries herself, and generally tightens and loosens in reaction to her situation. You learn a great deal about the character just by watching her silently make her dinner. In fact, I thought that the scenes in the car, when we only have her face in view, were somewhat lacking because she’s playing the role with her whole body and we’re missing it.

"Like THE CUCKOO (thanks for reminding me of that one, Esmé), the language/cultural differences between the characters aren’t really the point of the film. They help to stress the gap between them, but the film is much more about two people finding a connection to each other and dealing with their own big issues than it is about crossing barriers as obvious as not knowing what 'hai' means."

Esmé says: "Well it made me cry till the back of my neck was soaked. I was irritated by Collette's irritability at the beginning, but really moved by her passion in the middle and her grief at the end. I loved the way that the movie set up it that he apologized for getting them stuck in the desert (In a very 'Japanese' way) and she did the same for his wife at the end (also Japanese and confusing to her Australian colleagues)."

Michael says: "Written by Alison Tilson and directed by Sue Brooks, the Austrlian film JAPANESE STORY is a spare character study of two strangers who find common ground in the barren desert of central Australia. The superb Toni Collette (MURIEL'S WEDDING, THE HOURS) plays Sandy, a geologist who finds herself unwillingly playing driver and tour guide, to a visiting Japanese businessman Tachibana Hiromitsu (Gotaro Tsunashima). She resents her situation, growing increasingly more frustrated as Hiromitus insists they travel further and further into the outback, even as their communication breaks down even further. When their vehicle becomes trapped in the desert sand, the two must rely upon each other for survival, and eventually find themselves moving into a new, passionate relationship.

Brooks and Tilson create a story that blends the mysterious internal calm of the Japanese with the silent expanse of the Australian outback. As each character grows and changes from exposure to the other, the story evolves from the awkwardness of cultures clashing, to an exploration of two people reaching out to one another for understanding and further, the joy of release.

Collette and Tsunashima are remarkable, communicating their characters feelings with very little dialogue. When a dark twist casts the shadow of tragedy on the story, the film changes once again to a powerful portrait of a woman's struggle to understand life and her place in it. Scenes between Collette and Hiromitu's wife (played gently by Yumiko Tanaka in her film debut) are incredibly powerful and cathartic.

JAPANESE STORY is a quietly shattering film that explores human nature through two people's relationship. I highly recommend it." 4 1/2 cats

And in response to Esmé: And I'm glad you liked JAPANESE STORY, Esmé. A very visceral story, with Japan and Australia seeming light years apart culture-wise. I found
Collette's performance to be truly outstanding... I adore her in everything she does. And that moment at the end when she speaks with the man's wife is just shattering."