Let's Start Walking
I've been to Tokyo a number of times for the international film festival, and what I enjoy doing in any city, is to take a series of long walks to check out and soak in the local sights and sounds. Walking tours, that can be done individually or as a group, are a lot of fun, and practically quite easy since there are a number of available guides with maps online for free to download and recommended pit stops to make, so getting lost isn't really an option already. That same sense of spirit of adventure, and fun in not knowing what to expect, is epitomized in director Miki Satoshi's film Adrift in Tokyo.
Based on the novel by Yoshinaga Fujita, Adrift in Tokyo tells the story of two men, the impoverished law student Fumiya (Joe Odagiri) who is owing loan sharks nearly 1 million Yen, and finding himself attacked in his humble abode one day by debt collector Fukuhara (Tomokazu Miura), who makes him a proposition to accompany him on a walking trip across Tokyo. Maybe it's for companionship and to battle loneliness in the trip, but what's certain are two things, that Fumiya will be rewarded with a cool 1 million Yen in hard cash, and the other being Fukuhara turning himself in at the police station at the end of their trip for killing his wife (Sanae Miyata).
Really with nothing left to lose, Fumiya obliges, and the two set off on a road trip of sorts on foot, encountering a series of quirky encounters with equally quirky characters along the way, and embarking on a series of mini adventures that bring them to places of their personal interest, and of those that bring back certain memories that the two men now share with each other, from their old homes, to places that Fukuhara frequents with his wife during better times. There's poignant drama, subtle comedy and earnest contemplation all rolled into one package, and fans of Miki Satoshi cannot ask for more. Personal favourites from their interaction include the Lacoste story which really had me laughing out loud, and the co-workers (played by Eri Fuse, Ryo Iwamatsu and Yutaka Matsushige) of Fukuhara's wife who always seem to be distracted when it comes to checking on her with her absence from work, that brought about plenty of comic irony.
The true gem of the tale came from the final third of the film, where we've already grown very fond of the new bond forged between the two men, that another two characters got introduced to complete the entire picture. Fukuhara's fake wife from a wedding stint years back, Makiko (Kyoko Koizumi), and her niece Fufumi (Yurio Yoshita) brought about what would be a moment of fantasy turned into reality for everyone, with missing jigsaws in their respective lives made complete with the presence of one another, that you realize the inherent reason behind Fukuhara's initial proposal. Fumiya, the unluckiest guy in the tale with everything from toothpaste and persimmons finding their way to splatter on him, would discover that this point in time would probably be that father-son and family relationship and ties he had never enjoyed in his life, now compensated by and experienced through the presence of a surrogate, makeshift family, that made this a little bit like a fairy tale primed for a happily ever after finale.
Surely the strength of the film stemmed from its story, containing plenty of modern day references questioning things we take at face value without asking Why, and of the beautiful, natural chemistry shared between indie darling Joe Odagiri and Tomokazu Miura, making us wish that the journey their characters embark upon will stretch a little bit longer even if their destination inches a lot closer. It's almost akin to Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise/Sunset films where we learn more about their characters through their dialogues and interaction, except that this stretched out over a longer period of time, and doesn't singularly deal with the romantic notion of love, but of family.
And when you bask in the aftermath of this touching tale that will bring on plenty of unsaid emotions as it reaches its crescendo, don't miss the coda at the end of the closing credits. Highly recommended!
One of the key Special Features included is the Making Of (70:45), one of the longest out there which is subtitled in English and presented in the letterbox format. Given its length it plays out more like a production diary of sorts that follows the production team in an almost chronological order to take a sneak peek at the behind the scenes process. Other special features include the Trailer (1:56, letterbox format), and a series of Third Window Trailers which are presented in the anamorphic widescreen format, for movies like Underwater Love (1:12), Villain (1:25), Sawako Decides, (1:50) Cold Fish (1:58), Confessions (1:41), and Confessions of a Dog (2:55).
Rounding up the extras is the Weblink Section that contains the URL to Third Window Films and its Youtube Channel.
The DVD is scheduled for a release on 27 Feb 2012, and if you're a fan of Miki Satoshi, Third Window Films will also be releasing on the same day a limited edition collection containing the director's 3 best films of: Adrift in Tokyo, Turtles are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers, and Instant Swamp. And for those based in the UK, both Miki Satoshi and actress Eri Fuse will be in London for Hyper Japan (25 and 26 Feb) and the East Winds Film Festival.
You can pre-order the DVDs now directly from the Third Window Films Amazon Page.