Birthright: Film Review
Immaculately shot with expressive music and long, mesmeric silences, Japanese director Naoki Hashimoto’s Birthright is more like a melancholy song or tone poem until it erupts into an unpredictable, shattering finale.
TOKYO – Naoki Hashimoto’sBirthright features a powerful but tragic heroine, who takes revenge against her mother for abandoning her at birth by “destroying the most important thing” to her. Immaculately shot with expressive music and long, mesmeric silences, it is more like a melancholy song or tone poem until it erupts into an unpredictable, shattering finale.
This will not be an item on genre movie distributors’ list, as it is a world apart from the Park Chan-wook school of revenge, and anyone anticipating stomach-churning violence and baroque emotions might feel they are walking away empty-handed. One can hope that festivals can discern from Hashimoto’s striking film language that he offers a different kind of catharsis – not from any vindication of being wronged but from tragic fulfillment of more natural human longings.
Mika (Sayoko Oho), a young woman sits in a car. Then she walks down a lane in a rustic area and observes a family of three – Minoru Takeda (Hiroshi Sakuma), his wife Naoko (Ryoko Takizawa) and teenage daughter Ayano (Miyu Yagyu). Next, she has changed into a school uniform and follows Ayano. She tricks her into getting into her car, and imprisons her for five days, denying her food and drink. Using Ayano’s mobile, she reminds Naoko of a past she tried to throw away like bath water. Heart of glass meets heart of stone at the final confrontation between mother and child. The final image is a visually arresting evocation of the infant floating in the womb, echoing the Japanese title Umbilical Cord.
This simple and single-minded plot development is well served by equally clean editing, minimalist but theatrical sets and even less dialogue. Pensive, desolate colors of navy, cobalt blue and mossy green mirror the lack of warmth in Mika’s life. The camera moves with Mika’s eyes – peering enviously into Takeda’s house from a bush, or watching Naoko’s reactions when Ayano is returned to her from the perspective of Mika’s rear-view mirror.
No matter how artful the compositions, some scenes are stretched out till they sap audience patience, particularly when Mika and Ayano are stuck in the loft and there is neither action nor dialogue for minutes on end.
Venue: Tokyo International Film Festival, Japanese Eyes
Sales: Eleven Arts
Production: Wilco Co. Ltd, Breath Inc, Thanks Lab presents a Wilco Co. Ltd production
Cast: Sayoko Oho, Miyu Yagyu, Ryoko Takizawa, Hiroshi Sakuma
Director-producer: Naoki Hashimoto
Screenwriters: Naoki Hashimoto. Kiyotaka Inagaki
Executive producers: Yoshinori Kano, Motoo Kawabata, Naoki Hashimoto
Director of photography: Hiroo Yanagida
Production designer: Tatsuhiro Okamoto
Costume designer: Mari Miyamoto
Music: Hiroyuki Kosu
No rating, 108 minutes