A married couple going through a separation is a familiar premise and the depiction of how hard it can be on the family around has been the backbone of a million tales. But when that is just the first course at a dinner after which many other weirder dishes would follow, which is quite a unique experience.

The House Where the Mermaid Sleeps” is screening as part of The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme

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A couple has decided to go ahead with a divorce, but do not want it to disrupt the lives of their two children. As fate would have it, the elder daughter Mizuho has an accident and is diagnosed as brain-dead. The mother Kaoru is not ready to give up yet and does not allow the doctors to proceed with a test to establish that the brain activity has ceased. She cares for her daughter who remains unconscious for months. Using robotics, the girl’s body is kept alive waiting for the day she will open her eyes and come back looking normal. The family (especially the mother) and doctors are not able to make a decision on what is to be done. In the meantime, there are other patients waiting for organs who would be benefited if Mizuho is declared brain-dead.

Ryoko Shinohara plays the pivotal role of the mother and all other characters support her in narrating the tale of the little girl. Ryoko rises to the challenge and makes sure that her performance is the mainstay of the movie. It is a very unusual place to be when you feel so passionately about something and the rest of the world fails to see it the way you do. Frustration, anger and sorrow pass through your being all at the same time. The direction by Yukihiko Tsutsumi has ensured intensity is achieved, and though the Best Actress nomination at Japan Academy Awards is thoroughly deserved, the character Kaoru played by Ryoko Shinohara may also have held the movie back as it dwarfs all other characters in comparison.

The camera has been very busy and used effectively throughout the movie. From the tracking shot at the beginning to introduce the characters to the close-up shots of cherry blossom flowers, there are quite a lot of effects covered. Full credits to Daisuke Soma.

The technicalities and laws prevailing in Japan about the death of brain and death of heart are presented in detail. This is a drawback in my opinion as the movie runs a tad longer than it should have, ideally. The helpless side of technology is portrayed. With so much of technical capability at our disposal, it is easy to miss the objective and humane element we once set out searching.

Music is used extensively and this helps to traverse the emotional scenes easily, without getting into too many dialogues. The picture of Mermaids at the gate to the house in a way defines the movie and gives it its name. The condition of the child could only be compared to a mythical being and it is the mother who leaves the larger impression.

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