Synopsis: Mitsuko (Riisa Naka) is a young woman who believes everything will be okay and always tries to help those around her. One day, she met an American man and wanted to help him. They became involved in a relationship and she moved with him to California. A little later, her boyfriend left her and Mitsuko returned to Japan alone. Her parents, who runs a pachinko parlor, still thinks Mitsuko is living happily in California.
Now, Mitsuko is nine-months pregnant, unmarried & almost broke. She has to move out of her apartment. Yet, Mitsuko still believes everything will be okay. Mitsuko doesn’t know where she will go, but she lays downs on a bench and watches where the wind blows. Mitsuko then knows where she will go. She’ll visit an elderly woman who was her parent’s landlord many years ago. Mitsuko will also see again the boy (Aoi Nakamura) that held a life-long crush on her.
Hara ga kore nande 7.75
eyelights: Mitsuko. its message. its quirks.
eyesores: its initially ambiguous tone.
“Go ask the wind.”
Yûya Ishii’s 2011 motion picture ‘Hara ga kore nande’ tells the story of Mitsuko, a defiant lone wolf desperately seeking community in a disconnected world. Out of work, alone and pregnant, she returns to her roots and, despite her seemingly obtuse ways, spreads a little magic in people’s lives.
I knew nothing about this movie until one of my best friends gave me a DVD of it earlier this year for my birthday. He told me that he was charmed by it when he first saw it; he liked its simplicity and the quirky joie de vivre that it espouses. He wished that there were more pictures like it being made.
So we watched it together.
I immediately shared his sentiment: ‘Hara ga kore nande’ is an enjoyable little ditty that mixes drama with subtle situational humour. I really liked Mitsuko, a survivor who knows only how to plow forward through life; she’s rough around the edges, but means well – something that I could relate to.
I myself have had to put my head down in life to stay alive; I’m headstrong, for right or wrong, because it allows me to keep moving forward. However, provided with no mentorship, this means that I often will inadvertently ruffle feathers along the way, even though my intentions are always good.
I’ve heard the term “socially autistic” get bandied about to describe some of the people I frequent, and I suspect that this could be applied to me too. Due to a few strange interactions that Mitsuko initially has with strangers, one quickly gets the impression that she would be labelled this way as well:
- For reasons unknown, she kept imposing her snacks on people – specifically her neighbour and the movers. She just couldn’t take a hint, though her intentions were good; she was just trying to share. A bit forcefully.
- Oblivious to the embarrassment she could cause him or the possible slight to his pride, she forced the last of her money upon an out-of-work man that she saw interviewed on TV and whom she finds sitting on a bench.
- Having no money left, she took a cab and then refused to pay the fare.
- She simply walked in on, and woke up, the landlord that she hadn’t seen in 15 years and abruptly asked her for money.
…and so forth and so on.
Her behaviour can be otherworldly enough that its inappropriateness elicits laughter. For instance, she likes to defuse situations by having a nap, mid-conflict. Hilariously, she has such strong personally that she also forces everyone involved to join her in doing the same. And, naturally, they follow suit.
No one messes with Mistuko!
My friend made an interesting observation: Mitsuko, and the landlady she returns to, are unconventional female figures by Japanese standards; Japanese women are traditionally subdued, reserved, following in the footsteps of men. Neither of these women play by those rules: they’re powerhouses.
Having been pulled to strong female characters at least since seeing Sarah Connor in ‘Terminator 2‘, and since I’ve been romantically drawn to strong-willed women, it’s hardly surprising then that I found Mitsuko compelling; she’s the kind of character and person that I believe the world needs more of.
The picture focuses mostly on Mitsuko’s return to the tenements that she grew up in, which have been largely forgotten by society with time, hidden as it is. Fueled by her desire for community, she repopulates it, rebuilds former connections and helps the people around her with their various struggles.
She’s a local heroine.
Watching this picture, I couldn’t help but think of one of my best friends, who, like myself, has had to be willful to forge ahead in life. But, whereas I seek a sense of family, she’s long sought community – much like Mitsuko does. So, naturally, I just had to introduce my friend to this sorta bird of a feather.
It was an excellent match.
Even though Mitsuko is fictional, she’s inspiring: writer-director Yûya Ishii envisioned a heroine who may not have all the right tools but who is resourceful enough to find work-arounds; despite all her impediments, she finds ways to succeed. All she needed was to dream and follow the wind.
I’m especially grateful that Mitsuko wasn’t turned into a subject of derision, as she might be in a Hollywood film; she is quirky, but not a joke. The picture does turn into a bit of a farce in the end, but it’s tastefully done: it gradually builds up to it so that, by the time it unravels, it feels organic.
My only issue with the movie is that it’s a bit opaque, initially. I don’t know if this was intentional, but we had no sense of what was going on with Mitsuko (why she hung up on her parents the way that she did, why she lied to them about being in California, why everyone seemed to recognize her, …etc.).
But that’s soon cleared up – no harm, no foul.
Ultimately, this is a really sweet and offbeat picture that illustrates just how much people crave true interconnectivity, how it can heal even the most broken souls. All it takes is one determined person to get the ball rolling, to put the network together. Perfect or not, that person can change the world.
‘Hara ga kore nande’ is a nice balance of drama, comedy, adventure, romance, social commentary, and unfettered hope. It’s the kind of motion picture that deserves to find a larger audience, even though it’s not the type of manic, eye-catching box office fare that most people seem to gravitate towards.
Like Mistuko, it delivers.
Date of viewing: April 15, 2017