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  Journey to the Shore I Could Stay Here Forever
Year: 2015
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Stars: Eri Fukatsu, Tadanobu Asano, Masaaki Akahori, Yû Aoi, Tetsuya Chiba, Akira Emoto, Daiki Fujino, Mihi Fukaya, Yumiko Ise, Sola Ishii, Masao Komatsu, Kana Matsumoto, Mika Muraoka, Hideyuki Okamoto, Kaoro Okunuki, Yasuyuki Shuto
Genre: Drama, Romance, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mizuki (Eri Fukatsu) is a piano teacher who spends most of the time she is not with children tutoring them in music, by herself. She has been left alone since her husband Yusuke (Tadanobu Asano) died three years ago, and doesn't have any friends, nor has she begun a fresh relationship, but one day when she is at the supermarket she notices a packet of cake mix that her husband used to like, and on impulse takes it back home. On making them that evening, she is surprised when the deceased appears and says hello, but the feelings of relief that he is back with her overwhelm any other concerns, and soon they are chatting. One thing, however: she would like an explanation of his demise.

Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa was probably best known for his horror and thriller pieces, but he liked to dabble in drama as well, though as you could surmise from the premise this was no ordinary drama as he took the supernatural trappings of a ghost story and applied them to a tale of grieving. Don't go thinking you were going to get a Japanese version of the 1990 blockbuster Ghost, or even the smaller but similar yarn Truly Madly Deeply, this was very much its own creature after its nation of origin's fashion, and muted to the point of near inertia, so there were no real special effects sequences, and the fact that Yusuke is back in the land of the living was taken as read, with no delving into the mechanism of such phenomena.

Mizuki is actually commendably restrained in the face of her dead husband making a comeback into her life, though you can tell she would probably most like to throw her arms around him and hug him for as long as was humanly possible. Whether it was social graces or an intimidation that he has reappeared so strangely, she doesn't get too physical with him, making the moments where she does get to cuddle him sad and sweet given she is obviously not one to let her emotions show with any regularity. As for Yusuke, he was normal to the point of banality, taking this situation very much in his stride and not letting slip any great revelations about what death is like, or even any afterlife to speak of.

He simply tells of how he committed suicide by walking into the sea because the pressures of modern life had got too much for him, and that now his body has been completely devoured by crabs so there's no point in looking for it. On venturing outside, he catches sight of his old boss at the newspaper distribution office he worked at before he became a doctor, and before Mizuki knows what is happening they have moved into said office and started to help out the elderly man, just as Yusuke used to. All very well, but every so often here we are reminded that Mizuki is mixing with the dead, and when she goes back to the office one day and finds it derelict, as it actually appears, she realises where she has been living these past few days, in dust and rubbish with the wind cutting through each room.

Yet every time reality encroaches on her existence, either she pushes it back or Yusuke does, making his presence felt to rekindle her love for him. This includes a scene where after she has broken up with him when he admits he had an affair with a colleague when he was alive, she visits the woman and rather than having a fight with her she reverts to type and has a measured conversation where they agree that Yusuke was a great guy, which is all very well for him in a don't speak ill of the dead sort of way, but leaves Mizuki stranded in her vivid memories once again. An episodic movie, it followed the couple across Japan as they alighted in places that meant a lot to Yusuke, ending up in a rural idyll that nevertheless allows a sinister tone to intrude, as if Kurosawa was reminding us that his protagonist was indeed interacting with ghosts, and that hints at an enormous landscape of the unknown, spiritually or otherwise. In spite of that, Journey to the Shore was a shade too reserved for its own good, a little one note for its over two hour length, even if it did muse validly over what dwelling in our pasts can do to us.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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