Kiyoshi Kurosawa/ Japan/ 2016/ 130 mins
At selected cinemas now
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s feature film is adapted from a mystery novel by Yutaka Maekawa. It was selected out of competition for the 66th Berlin International Festival 2016.
It takes us to suburban Tokyo when Koichi Takakura, a former detective, moves in with his pretty wife Yasuko and dog to start a new position as a lecturer on criminology at University. Although the couple tries to befriend their neighbours (the gentle typecast wife bringing home-made stew or chocolate), the latter appears hostile to her regular approaches. A bizarre atmosphere and psychological tension build up, along with the unveiling of a lonely cold neighbourhood. This is confirmed as the former detective realises that three members of the same family mysteriously disappeared six years ago. With the assistance of an old colleague, he steps in to reopen the cold case.
Suspicion is cast from the outset on the “creepy” neighbour, Masayuki Nishino, who is quickly confirmed to have bi-polar and psychopathic tendencies. The connection is (maybe too) rapidly induced with the unsolved mystery of the missing Honda family. One can here question the choice of the film title.
But… typical of victims of the horror genre, Koichi‘s wife, Yasuko, continues to try and befriend the weird, unpredictable Masayuki, even insisting on inviting him for diner. Although it is apparently obvious to her husband and the spectator that she should run away from him…
Other improbabilities occur in the film, making things rather hilarious at times. It culminates when the 2 narratives coincide, ending up in a rather surprising and destabilising conclusion. The creepy sinister character is definitely well cast, but perhaps a bit too obviously so to give space to real suspense.
Overall, an enjoyable film but lacking the essential content to a nail-biting good thriller movie.