Although, in their vast majority, they are not at all well known outside Japan, indie dramas are probably the genre with the most entries in Japanese cinema. Among this plethora, “Laundry” is one of the films that stands apart.
Twenty-year-old Teru had an accident when he was a child that has impaired his intellectual ability, making him think and act like a little kid. Not having many options, he “works” at his grandma’s coin laundry, where he actually acts as a guard against perverts trying to steal women’s underwear. The regulars are a number of peculiar individuals, including a middle-aged photographer who has forcefully made Teru hang her framed photos on the wall of the shop, and a failed boxer, who after his latest loss decides to spend much of his time inside one of the washing machines. Teru’s life moves slowly and uneventfully, until Mizue, a gorgeous woman, appears on the shop. As Teru comes to know her, it is revealed that she suffers from depression, to the point of having committed suicide. Eventually, Teru follows her to her hometown, and the two embark on a strange trip that involves a strange pigeon-master.
Jinichi Mori directs a film that moves in the regular fashion of Japanese indie films. The pace is slow, the aesthetics mellow, the dialogues scarce, there is almost no action and there are some moments of slapstick humor among the drama that permeates the film. “Laundry” occasionally looks like a road movie, but the stops are too frequent for that, despite the fact that it could be described as an odyssey, regarding the relationship of the two protagonists. Deep down though, the movie is an unconventional love story, of those Japanese love so much, that makes an evident point regarding depression and the solution towards it.
The characters in the film act mostly like caricatures, with Yosuke Kubozuka as Teru leading the way, in a wonderful performance that manages to portray a character that seems lost due to his handicap, appear as the most content in the whole film. Gorgeous Koyuki gives another great, dramatic performance as Mizue, wonderfully portraying her characters frequent changes from happiness to absolute sadness, while she manages to appear confused regarding her relationship at all times. Takashi Naito as the pigeon master is hilarious on his drama, with the scenes with the waiter and the one where he leaves his house being the funniest.
Technically the film follows the general aesthetics being as realistic as possible. However, Kozo Shibasaki’s cinematography is wonderful, presenting images of great beauty, both in the suburban environment of the beginning and during the various travels the protagonists make.
“Laundry” is a very beautiful movie about an untraditional love story, that highlights the prowess of Japanese filmmakers in shooting indie dramas