Earnest but morose drama set against the backdrop of the 2011 tsunami
Set shortly after the 2011 Japanese tsunami and ensuing Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster, Himizu considers the consequences of parental and governmental irresponsibility through its story of two troubled teens. Based on Minoru Furuya’s manga of the same name, it’s an earnest, albeit rather morose effort from director Shion Sono which introduces two impressive talents in its young stars Shôta Sometani and Fumi Nikaidô (who both picked up the Marcello Mastroianni Award at the 68th Venice Film Festival).
Himizu centres on 14-year-old Sumida (Sometani) whose treatment by his indolent, promiscuous mother and chaotic, absentee father veers between brutality and neglect, causing him to yearn for little more than an ordinary life. Fortunately he finds a substitute family in the small group of homeless individuals who camp on the land around his mother’s ailing boating business, including former CEO Shozo (Tetsu Watanabe) who provides invaluable assistance when a loan shark targets Sumida in place of his father. Further (at first unwanted) support comes from an obsessive schoolmate, Keiko (Nikaidô), behind whose relentless cheeriness and do-gooding hides her own horrific domestic circumstances.
Opening amidst the tsunami’s devastation with the recitation of a French poem, Himizu recalls Alain Resnais’ masterful Hiroshima Mon Amour. It’s loaded with impotent rage on behalf of its young protagonists and Sumida’s psychological turmoil is conveyed with chutzpah. Although Himizu is impressively righteous with regards to the wrongs inflicted on the youth of Japan, it’s also repetitive and overlong and - despite moments of mania - it sometimes struggles to lift itself from the mire of Sumida’s all-too-infectious despondency. Still there’s plenty to admire - its young leads are terrific, the ruined city is a fitting backdrop for mental obliteration and the wall-to-wall parental negligence references the behaviour of the disinterested elite. As Sumida says, 'Without guidance I don’t know right from wrong.'
General release from Fri 1 June.