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Film review: Journey to the Shore – Kiyoshi Kurosawa summons the dead for wistful human drama

The director once again focuses on the spirits of the deceased, but this time, the nearly departed is out for love, not revenge

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2016, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2016, 4:00pm

Grief, memory and the importance of letting go are all central to Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s latest drama, which won the best director prize in the Un Certain Regard section of last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Kurosawa began his career in the late 1970s and came to prominence in the late ’90s with his J-horror nail-biters Cure and Pulse. While the spirits of the recently deceased also feature prominently here, they do so in far more benevolent fashion.

Three years after drowning at sea, Yusuke (Tadanobu Asano) reappears before his timid, young widow Mizuki (Eri Fukatsu). Aware he has risen from the grave, but unable to explain how or why, Yusuke invites Mizuki on a road trip. She agrees – and is clearly delighted to have her husband back – but along the way discovers there are many other spectres walking the earth.

READ MORE: Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s ‘Penance’ probes tensions in the Japanese psyche

Unlike the tortured souls from Kurosawa’s earlier work, the ghosts in Journey to the Shore, adapted from Kazumi Yumoto’s novel, are simply reluctant to let go of their earthly lives and relationships. Both the living and the dead seem equally unwilling to accept the finality of death – but in Kurosawa’s world, it appears they don’t have to.

Admittedly, the film shuffles along at an agonising crawl that will test the patience of more restless viewers, despite a score from Naoko Eto and Yoshihide Otomo seemingly ripped from a far more ghoulish and melodramatic film. The final product stops short of being genuinely haunting, but its sensitive performances and mournful melancholia linger long in the mind.

Journey to the Shore opens on March 10

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