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Sawako Decides

Sawako Decides

By Arpad Lukacs • October 3rd, 2011
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
SAWAKO DECIDES (DVD)
Third Window Films

Release date: October 3rd, 2011
Certificate (UK): 12
Running time: 112 minutes

Country of origin: Japan
Original language: Japanese with English subtitles

Writer and director: Yuya Ishii

Cast: Hikari Mitsushima, Ryo Iwamatsu, Kotaro Shiga, Masashi Endo, Kia Aihara

Three months ago I got quite ill while packing to go to Ireland to spend two weeks with my family there. It was a nightmare to have to travel when all I wanted to do is stay in bed; this was one of the worst flights I’ve ever had.

At the same time I was also to review a Japanese comedy/drama that was to be released in cinema, titled Sawako Decides, which Patrick Samuel eventually took over due to my circumstances. Now that the film is being released on DVD, I’m glad that I can have my say after all.

Sawako Decides

When I arrived at Dublin airport nearing the end of my awful journey, my father came with my siblings to pick me up. I was still trying to deliver on my promise to review Sawako Decides at the time, so as soon as we got to the house I took my DVD copy of the film and set out to watch it.

My younger brother had just bought himself a TV the size of a window and he wanted to see the movie with me on his new acquisition. My brother is not generally into art house cinema and does not watch subtitled movies very often and as he said at the time, Sawako Decides would be the first Japanese film he has ever seen. So I sat back to watch the film, as well as his response to it.

Sawako Decides

My head felt really hot as I was struggling with a fever, but I still found myself in the film zone quite soon. Directed by Yuya Ishii, Sawako Decides is about a young woman Sawako (Hikari Mitsushima) who moved to Tokyo from a small town and after five years, she still struggles to find herself in the city. She’s had a few jobs and boyfriends, but it just doesn’t really work and Sawako seems puzzled and often too humble when interacting with people around her.

When her father falls ill, she ends up moving back home with her eco-friendly lifestyle obsessed sweater-knitting boyfriend (Masashi Endo) and his daughter (Kia Aihara) where she takes over the running of the family business.

Sawako Decides

I completely agree with Patrick’s review that thematically Sawako Decides is a film about self-assertion and taking control of one’s life. Although it may seem so on its surface, this is not a movie about the morally corrupt city vs. those wonderful small town values. Having grown up in a small town in Hungary and now living in London, Sawako Decides confirmed my own experience: it doesn’t really matter where you live; people are just people wherever you go.

This is shown when things don’t really change straightaway after Sawako moves back to her home town. She still finds it difficult to get by, but the change that eventually takes place is due to her own willpower which was perhaps triggered in some ways by the newfound responsibility of running a business. Why Sawako “decides” is not absolutely clear; just like in real life the answer is more complicated than to find a single reason for personal transformation.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Exclusive interview with director Yuya Ishii
  • Special message from director Yuya Ishii
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Trailers of other Third Window releases

It is those small situations that made me laugh so hard that I find difficult to describe. It’s when Sawako tells her boyfriend that using the eco-friendly lifestyle as a way to escape from reality is disrespectful to Earth, or when her step-daughter thinks that Sawako might want to kill her after watching a news report on TV. Almost every scene has a quirky, subtle bit of humor in it well acted by all actors, even the ones in supporting roles like Sawako’s uncle (Ryo Iwamatsu) who always has something funny to say when he’s drunk.

Sawako Decides

My brother seemed to like Sawako Decides. Watching the film with him made me realize two things: my brother has become a pretty cool grown-up and after this we went on to see more movies together while I was staying in Ireland.

Secondly, if you are considering walking off the mainstream motorway of cinema and want to try something else, Sawako Decides is an excellent choice to do something like that for the first time.

It’s an example of why it’s worth digging around amongst less known movies – there are gems to be found.

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad is a Film Studies graduate and passionate photographer (he picked up the camera and started taking stills just as he began his studies of moving pictures). He admires directors that can tell a story first of all in images. More or less inevitably, Brian De Palma has become Aprad’s favourite filmmaker.

Then there’s Arpad’s interest in anime. He was just a boy when he saw Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind on an old VHS and was hypnotised by the story of friendship, devotion and sacrifice. He still marvels at the uncompromising and courageous storytelling in Japanese anime, and wonders about the western audience with its ever growing appetite for “Japanemation”.

Have a look at Arpad's photography site, and you can follow him on Twitter @arpadlukacs.

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