Having its international premiere at Busan and winning the Audience Award at Tokyo Filmex, “Silent Rain” is a rather interesting production that uses the “love in the midst of memory loss” concept in order to present a genuine Japanese indie drama.
Based on the novel “The Forest Of Wool And Steel” by Natsu Miyashita, the story follows Yukisuke, a young bio-archaeologist with a bad leg that forces him to leap constantly. He lives a lonely life, only communicating typically with the head professor of his department in the university and a graduate student who also works in the same office, and Koyomi, a young woman who runs a Taiyaki stall he frequents almost daily. Yukisuke is fascinated by Koyomi, and he eventually strikes a friendship with her that is about to bloom into something more, when the girl gets into a car accident that leaves her in a coma. Eventually she regains consciousness, but suffers from a kind of amnesia that has her remembering her past, but unable to attain knew memories. Despite her condition and a rather weird meeting with her mother in the hospital, Yukisuke decides to live together with her, and a rather unusual relationship begins, that has him explaining the situation to her every morning. Despite the fact that he loves her, her condition eventually takes a toll, while the question if she really has feelings of him comes crashing on Yukisuke.
Contrary to the usual approach to the aforementioned concept that mostly moves in comedic paths (“50 First Dates” comes to mind), Ryutaro Nakagawa uses it to present a number of social comments, through a subtle, but rather dramatic approach. The most evident ones refer to the loneliness and the lack of communication that seems to dominate the lives of Japanese youths these days. Yukisuke seems to feel and be completely alone, as he watches other people, and in essence, his own life passing him over, with his limping actually being a metaphor for his situation. His disconnection becomes quite evident through his interaction with his female colleague, who repeatedly tries to establish a friendlier connection but fails, but also from the time it takes him to actually start talking to Koyomi initially.
Furthermore, the fact that he declines answering his colleague’s question about whether Koyomi is his girlfriend seems to state that this overall attitude of Japanese youths can be attributed to a cowardice to truly connect with people and to admit their feelings. The same applies to Koyomi, whose sole connection with people is through her everyday interactions in her stall, and stalking a man whose relationship with her is revealed later on. This lack of connection also extends to parents-children with the brief appearance of Koyomi’s mother and the complete absence of Yukisuke’s making the comment quite eloquent.
The concept of having to repeat the same story every day begins as an “adorable” attitude, but Nakagawa’s overall realistic approach soon turns it into a rather dramatic one, as he begins to realize that he does not know anything about Koyomi, and even more, that she will never know anything about him. Furthermore, when jealousy becomes a factor, their relationship becomes even more difficult, despite the fact that through his interactions with her, Yukisuke finally manages to open up a bit. Inevitably, the moment of tension arrives at some point, but this scene and the ones that follow highlight Nakagawa’s direction, as he induces the narrative with a sense of drama that can only be described as cathartic.
The general atmosphere of the film follows the rules of the Japanese indie, through a low-key, slow-burning approach to the subject, which allows Nakagawa to explore both his themes and his characters quite thoroughly. The cinematography also moves towards the same direction, with the focus being on realism, although the film does feature a number of very beautiful images, particularly near the ending.
In a rather unusual tactic for the category, Nakagawa has used piano music extensively in the film, a decision I found a bit annoying at some points, although the reasons for this and its connection with the narrative are soon revealed. Furthermore, there seem to be some issues with the sound recording, particularly in the long shots, where the dialogues are barely heard. However, these are just minor issues, and do not fault the overall sense the production leaves in any way.
The acting resonates completely with the overall atmosphere. Taiga Nakano is excellent in the portrayal of a multi-leveled character, as Yukisuke, with the way his depression giving its stead to hope and eventually despair being impressive to look, while his constant leaping is what gives the film its rhythm, actually. Newcomer Misa Eto (former Nogizaka46) has a smaller part, but is also quite good in presenting a character who begins as being lost, but becomes even more lost after the accident. The chemistry of the two is excellent, and finds its highlight in the scene where Yukisuke finally erupts. In a move mostly aimed at impression, but that adds to the entertainment the film offers, small parts are also taken by Naomi Kawase, Denden, and Kanji Furutachi
“Silent Rain” may not stray much away from the plethora of indie dramas coming out of Japan; however, it implements all the elements of the category quite artfully, thus resulting in film that will satisfy all fans of the genre.