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Japanese Story (2003)

  Directed by: Sue Brooks
Written by: Alison Tilson
Starring: Toni Collette, Lynette Curran, Matthew Dyktynski, Gotaro Tsunashima
Links: Japanese Story on the IMDb, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD
Genre: Drama
Awards: AFI Awards: Best Film 2003 (winner)

This movie gets: 8.67 (3 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 28th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

Japanese Story (2003) is also mentioned in pearly's review of Lost in Translation (2003).

"Oh-so-beautiful, in more ways than one" - a review by mino

Japanese Story is the sort of film that Australians can make very well — well-thought-out character-driven ‘thinkies’ sustained by top-quality acting — but very rarely actually make at all (cf. Lantana (2001)). It's the story of Sandy (played expertly by Toni Collette), a brash young geologist who gets lumped with the rather unpleasant task of carting around Hiromitsu (the equally superb Gotaro Tsunashima), an important Japanese businessman who's on a trip to visit one of her company's sites. Unfortunately for Sandy, the rather brusque and pig-headed (or is he?) Hiromitsu isn't satisfied with toddling back and forth between the hotel and the site, but wants to go on a fully-fledged tour of the Australian outback.

Short-tempered Sandy is quickly at the end of her tether, and Collette does an indescribably good job of portraying a hothead struggling to keep her temper in check, as well as the person who later seems to surprise herself with her own openness and the depth of feelings she soon feels for Hiromitsu.

Apart from the obvious love story, Japanese Story is a lot of other things too. It's a story about clashes (not just of culture, but also of personality), about personal growth, introspection, relationships, sadness, regret, shame, and guilt — as well as the stunning scenery of the outback, which almost deserves a star credit of its own. The film is also infused with quite a bit of gentle humour, which really helps the story tick along and give you far more empathy for the characters than you might otherwise have.

Japanese Story is a fairly amazing film, but not one without flaws. It's a moving, clever, beautiful, and thought-provoking movie, but it's far from perfect. Watching it is at times frustrating, particularly when Sue Brooks gets too caught up in making a good-looking film and lets parts of it drag. It's supposed to be a leisurely, laid-back film, and is hardly frenetic; but sometimes I feel it gets too slow, and maybe too wrapped-up in its own majesty.

The odd line or two of dialogue really grates on the ears, as well, where writer Alison Tilson seems to be too enamoured of making Collette a true-blue Aussie ‘sheila’, or otherwise puts some horribly unnatural-sounding dialogue into people's mouths. Collette and Tsunashima are more than competent enough to overcome these annoyances, though, and make what is (in my opinion) a good-but-not-spectacular story and script into something quite special.

mino gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 24 Sep 2004

"Wow" - a review by pearly

I can categorically say that I have never thought about a movie after its ending as much as I have thought about Japanese Story. It's now been nearly a month since I saw it, and I still find myself suddenly remembering it and feeling a portion of the emotion that I felt while watching it. I never expected what I ended up getting from watching this movie for the first time.

From a quick glance of the promotional material, or a couple of watches of the trailer, Japanese Story seems to be a romance of opposites attracting, and an exploration of how people from different cultures interact. But it's so much more than that.

Toni Collette is absolutely, heart-breakingly amazing as Sandy, the Aussie geologist who, against her will, becomes the driver for Hiromitsu (Gotaro Tsunashima), a Japanese businessman who wants to see Australia. After clashing to begin with, the two form a close bond after becoming stranded in the outback, and they begin to learn more about one another's thoughts and cultural backgrounds.

Writer Alison Tilson has put together an intriguing story, and director Sue Brooks has brought it to life against the beautiful backdrop that is Australia, but for most of the second half, all of this faded into the background as the only thing I could keep my eyes on was Collette. Give that girl her AFI award for best actress this minute!

One thing I have often thought about since having seen it (written so as not to be a spoiler): do you think the person who gave the letter to the other person knew what it said? There is a whole shift in thinking depending on whether or not they did. To leave something like this unexplained is a great touch by the writer - successfully walking that fine line between leaving too much unsaid (and making the audience annoyed in the processs, because they want to know), and spelling everything out in black and white (making the audience think they're being treated like imbeciles).

Even David and Margaret agreed that Japanese Story is a 9 outta 10, and I tossed up whether or not to award it the 10 outta 10 gong. Go in with no expectations, and knowing little more than what's been said here. I hope you agree that it's a must-see.

pearly gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 15 Oct 2003

Movie review statistics

Ratings given without reviews:

Number of reviews: 2
Number of ratings: 3
Average rating: 8.67
Lowest rating: 8 (by mino)
Highest rating: 9 (by em_fiction, pearly)
Rating Percentage

Reader comments

  1. An appalling film with its one redeming feature being that it (eventually) ends.

    Limp characters that inspire contempt. By the time something eventually happens its difficuilt to care.
    Toni Collette is a marvelous actress. Alas, this is a truly odious film.

    Rating given: 1

    A comment from simon phillips on Wed 05 Nov 2003 00:29 #

  2. couldn't agree more with characterisation and totally implausible story line (geologist can't get out of a bog???), not to mention the repetitive score and over acted scenes from Ms Collette. But more importantly, what's with the trousers???

    Rating given: 3

    A comment from JenD on Mon 01 Dec 2003 12:04 #

  3. Beautiful. I don't get the trousers, either, but I don't care.

    Rating given: 8

    A comment from Glizzie on Sat 07 May 2005 09:02 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 4.00 (3 ratings)

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