Japanese Reviews Reviews

Film Review: Rei (2024) by Toshihiko Tanaka

Rei (2024) by Toshihiko Tanaka
"Even if I disappear, it won't make any difference to the world at all"

Winner of the Tiger Award in this year's IFFR, and in one of the most touching moments of the whole festival, with the whole cast and crew on stage, “” is a typical Japanese family drama, which stands out due to its cinematography but also fosters a number of the inherent issues of the local movie industry.

The kanji character “Rei” has no direct meaning by itself, but can find a number of meanings when combined with other characters, with the protagonists of the movie actually sharing a hypostasis quite similar to that of the kanji. 30-something company employee Hikari, eventually finds meaning when, after attending a stage play with her best friend, Asami, she is impressed by the quality of the poster, and begins searching for the particular landscape photographer. The man in question is a deaf landscape photographer, Mato, who has alienated his family, essentially living disconnected from the rest of the world. The two soon connect as Hikari asks him to take a picture of her as part of a landscape, but the monotony of their lives is not the only thing that is disrupted. In the meantime, Asami also has problems of her own, as her young daughter seems to be on the spectrum and her husband, Kohei, is not particularly eager to help, not to mention other parts of his despicable behavior. Daisuke, Mato's brother is quite angry at his brother, with the two of them clashing during their mother's funeral.

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As such, and considering the plethora of characters, the narrative also deals with cheating husbands, single motherhood particularly in the case of handicapped children, repressed homosexuality, grief, regret and the alienations that seem to torment life in Japan (to say the least). It is also here that one of the movie's biggest faults appears, as there are too many things happening to the many characters that are part of the story, not to mention that the story follows too many paths after a point. On the other hand, individually, all arcs are quite interesting, while the connection between them, at least among some of them, is well presented, in probably the movie's best narrative trait.

On the other hand, as the film gets from the second hour mark and onwards until the ending of its whooping 189 minutes, the quality definitely deteriorates, with the inherent issue of Japanese movies to lag for no apparent reason unfortunately being present once more. Furthermore, in combination with the utterly melodramatic finale, the last part definitely emerges as the weakest here, in terms of narrative.

Again on the other hand, Yoshihito Nakashima, Erika Arai, Yusuke Soramura and Akio Ikeda's cinematography, is definitely the best trait of the whole movie, both in the presentation of the various interiors and Mato's photography. Actually, this aspect finds its apogee in the finale, with the fully snowed setting being quite impressive to watch, additionally intensifying the drama that permeates the story. 's own editing results in an expected slow pace that fits the aesthetics of the story, but it becomes quite evident that the movie would benefit from extensive trimming.

As such, it is quite interesting to discern whether the movie's faults outweigh its merits, with both actually being in abundance here. In that regard, I have to say that the latter come on top, with the movie actually being quite rewarding for the patient viewer.

About the author

Panos Kotzathanasis

My name is Panos Kotzathanasis and I am Greek. Being a fan of Asian cinema and especially of Chinese kung fu and Japanese samurai movies since I was a little kid, I cultivated that love during my adolescence, to extend to the whole of SE Asia.

Starting from my own blog in Greek, I then moved on to write for some of the major publications in Greece, and in a number of websites dealing with (Asian) cinema, such as Taste of Cinema, Hancinema, EasternKicks, Chinese Policy Institute, and of course, Asian Movie Pulse. in which I still continue to contribute.

In the beginning of 2017, I launched my own website, Asian Film Vault, which I merged in 2018 with Asian Movie Pulse, creating the most complete website about the Asian movie industry, as it deals with almost every country from East and South Asia, and definitely all genres.

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

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