by Amy Seaman
Just from reading a brief one-sentence summary about Yuya Ishii’s newest film, Mitsuko Delivers, it’s clear that this isn’t just another PARCO-sponsored, corny Japanese love story with a generic plot made tolerable only by the famous names attached to it. (That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with watching idols and musicians pretend they are average people who have trouble with their love lives, but sometimes a deviation from the norm is good.)
When the opening title credits finally roll, viewers have already been introduced to the 24-year-old Mitsuko Hara, who is nine months pregnant with a baby whose father is American and who lives in California — or something like that. The details of her current living situation aren’t really explained until later on in the film, after we’ve stopped caring about her fetus’ father and have focussed our attention on Mitsuko and her obsession to do only “cool” things.
By this time, Mitsuko has returned to the area where she grew up, a small cluster of houses that seem to be stuck in post-WWII Tokyo, complete with buried, still-live missile shells and a bedridden landlady. After reminiscing on her childhood in one of the many flashbacks in the film, Mitsuko begins putting everyone else around her before herself, reminded of the selfless nature of her childhood community.
Mitsuko’s helpfulness is simultaneously endearing and cringe-worthy: Throughout the film, there are instances in which she seems to be completely oblivious to the needs and wants of others, further complicating the situation rather than simplifying things for the people she’s trying to help. However, these rough spots are few — though you may find yourself asking why she is so socially naïve at select moments — and Mitsuko generally proves herself to be a good friend and caring individual.
It’s worth noting here that parts of this movie were filmed in Fukushima Prefecture before the earthquake happened last March, which may or may not highlight the necessity of working together when the going gets tough — depending on your point of view. Towards the end of the film, though, things begin to feel a little bit heavy-handed and overwhelming — too many things start happening at once, and the film loses a bit of its honest feel. This overbearing is only slightly redeemed by the humorous moments sprinkled throughout — you’ll probably find yourself laughing at more than a few of Mitsuko’s mishaps and the way she describes her ex.
The film isn’t perfect and is slightly cliché at times, but when all is said and done, you’ll leave the theatre feeling better than you did before, and maybe even perform a random act of kindness or three…
Mitsuko Delivers official roadshow is scheduled for November 5 and the film will open in theatres throughout Tokyo shortly after.