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I have a whole long list of film endings that I really love but this one definitely goes on my list of best movie beginnings ever. From the single screenshot with the soft voice-over (“A tidal wave is coming. It will sweep us all away.” ) to the brilliant bus hijack where we see very little or the violent act itself but somehow the look on the passenger’s faces and the near-silence that accompanies the whole sequence totally conveys the brutal impact of the scene and I think I shivered a little. I also found myself wondering where the film would go considering that this huge impactful crime scene has already occured within the first few minutes of what I knew was going to be a rather long film. Turns out that we end up living with the 3 people who survived the crash and witness their devastation.

Given that we are witnessing the aftermath of such a tragic event, it feels only right that the silence is pretty much carried throughout the film. The whole film is visually stunning to look at and the sepia tone really works to set the mood for the film I think. And the mood is such a key part of the experience. I think this film captures such a great snapshot of youth or at least these specific characters’ youth and I found myself completely transported into these characters lives. Something about the way the film looks and the way these people seem to communicate without words makes for a really hypnotic experience.

Plus, the whole film has this really unique rhythm to it. The characters are given time to breathe and the relationship between Makoto and the kids is allowed to develop slowly and gradually. Just as would be the case with a real-life tragedy, the characters are not rushed through a healing process and when we see them finally try and reintegrate into the world around them, it’s completely rewarding and credible.

I also really loved how the kids and Makoto always seem completely cut off from the rest of the world. This is carried to the point where the budding romance (?) with the co-worker, the serial killings, the fast-talking cousin – all seem like they exist in the background but yet somewhat separately from the world these three characters inhabit. Also loved the scenes in the bus (and just off it) where the 4 of them seem so much at peace just being with one another without feeling any need to communicate verbally. Perfectly captured for instance in the screenshot used on the poster. Another standout scene for me was the one where Makoto starts teaching Naoki to drive and the scene that the screenshot above is from. Just Makoto’s patience with the kids is so beautiful to watch.

I really liked the performances too, both from the actor who plays Makoto as well as the two kids. I think one could read social commentary into the film too but even without that layer, I think the film is totally rewarding.

Someone should please let the Harvard Film Archive Program Director know that this really needs to get on the calendar for next month. I really want to watch it on the big screen and recreate this shattering but totally beautiful experience.

Grade: A-