Japanese Story
4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Japanese Story Stunningly intense and lyrical filmmaking and a spectacular central performance make this a must-see for anyone who's serious about cinema. Sandy (Collette) is a workaholic geologist charged with looking after a Japanese businessman (Tsunashima) for a few days in the Australian outback. She reluctantly goes off to do her job, and the two clash hugely at first sight--he's upright and presumptuous, she's brash and stubborn. But after getting stuck in the sand for several hours, they begin to soften towards each other. Both are all work and no play, pouring themselves into their careers to cover up the emptiness in their personal lives. What follows isn't so much about them falling in love as about each of them learning to live ... and to open their hearts.

Director Brooks films the colourful landscapes gorgeously, vividly capturing the textures to make the countryside an integral part of the story. And this is an excellent script as well; it brilliantly uses humour to hook us, highlighting the collision of cultures that drives these two people apart ... and then brings them together. Telling little scenes add to others that are far more portentous, until the story takes a surprising turn that changes everything. But it's the unpeeling of these two people that makes the film such a revelation, and both actors are well up to the challenge. Tsunashima wonderfully relaxes into his skin as his odyssey progresses; Collette is simply jaw-dropping, with another raw and fearless performance that takes us deep inside Sandy's mind--her preoccupation with work, her slowly dawning attraction toward Hiro, her struggle to cope with where it all goes. It's quite possibly the performance of the year, and we can only hope Collette gets the recognition she deserves. This is an entertaining, devastating film--its images, sounds and the faces of the characters will linger long in the mind. As will its message that we should just stop being so busy.

cert 15tbc adult themes, language, nudity 2.Nov.03 lff

dir Sue Brooks
scr Alison Tilson
with Toni Collette, Gotaro Tsunashima, Matthew Dyktynski, Lynette Curran, Yumiko Tanaka, Justine Clarke, John Howard, Bill Young, Kate Atkinson, George Shevtsov, Reg Evans, Mike Frencham
release Australia 25.Sep.03; USA 31.Dec.03; UK 4.Jun.04
03/Australia 1h40

Outback adventure: Collette & Tsunashima.

23rd Shadows Awards

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send your review to Shadows... Japanese Story Gawain McLachlan, Melbourne: 3 out of 5 stars "It's a pity that Toni Collette, one of Australia's best actresses, has been wasted on Hollywood supporting roles when she really should be the lead. Luckily she still finds time to star in Australian films and this is her best performance to date. Toni Plays the role of geologist Sandy who has to show the son (Gotaro Tsunashima) of a key Japanese investor around some outback mines. Despite an abrasive start and some minor mishaps they fall in love. However there is a surprising twist which takes the film in a totally different direction. Both actors are great, the outback cinematography is fantastic. The script is pretty good but does have one lead blurt out one of the key themes of the film as direct dialogue and could have been more subtly done. The end sequences drag on a bit but overall it's a must-see Aussie film that should garner some good box office locally and hopefully internationally. This is director sue Brooks' second feature (Road To Nhill) and is likely to be critically well received." (Filmnet 23.Jul.03)

Mike Armitage, Verteillac, France: 5/5 "A minor masterpiece, illuminated by a beautiful & affecting performance by Toni Collette." (8.Oct.04)

2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall