FIT -- Film Review

A diffuse and slow-brewing crucible of human angst with an uplifting conclusion.

Hiromasa Hirosue (and his creative partner Izumi Takahashi) have been feted at festivals for their intense, interrogative gaze at human desperation. Still, considerable patience is required to plough through the daily crises, humiliations and insecurities of "FIT's" unhappy individuals before anyone sees the light at the end of the tunnel.


That patience will be rewarded with delicate renderings of inner transformations and unexpectedly uplifting shifts in perspective, which make "FIT" an easy pickup for festivals promoting independent films.

In spite of the narrative's rather scattered structure and the large ensemble of characters, most scenes only focus on interaction between two people. This stagey setup sometimes looks a little artificial, like an actors' workshop (betraying the staff's theatrical history), but it also allows for deeper engagement with the characters. The actors deliver idiosyncratic yet richly layered dialogue with individualistic aplomb, mirroring the characters' complex psychological inflexions.

A trademark of films by the Hirosue-Takahashi team is unrelenting concentration on just a pair or a threesome of roles. "FIT" branches out to a larger canvass of personalities. The point of contact between these disparate characters is a home shopping company.

Sagawa (Hirosue) is the company salesman who reiterates motivational jingo to himself in front of a mirror every morning. After hours, he prowls the neighborhood in a hooded raincoat and a semi-transparent mask.

Tahara (Akie Nimiki) is tied to supporting her autistic brother Masaru (Hideyuki Arai) and the demanding job of caregiver to a disabled man. Nitta (Midori Shine) devoted her life to her grandmother (her only relative). Left alone after the latter's death, she calls the shopping hotline to complain as a pastime. However, when new sales recruit Ohki (Yui) makes a house-call, she discovers Nitta's hospitality and eagerness for friendship.

If there's something modern people fear more than solitude, it's probably dependency. "FIT" explores the pros and cons of both. The scene where Tahara learns to let go by handing over Masaru to a special care personnel (which takes place on a highway bridge, an ambivalent symbol of connection and transition) is both poignant and emancipating.

Home shopping is supposedly the most impersonal of service industries, as it reduces human interaction to a minimum. Yet Nitta is so desperate, she grasps at this last straw. Surprisingly, it is this batty recluse who ends up offering a sympathetic ear and life-changing counsel to the seemingly self-contained Ohki.

Visualization of space is the filmmaking team's least monotonous and suffocating yet, with increased exterior shots of interesting symmetry.

Venue: Tokyo International Film Festival, Japanese Eyes
Sales: PIA Film Festival
Production: Gunjo-iro
Cast: Hiromasa Hirosue, Akie Namiki, Midori Shine, Yui, Hideyuki Arai
Director-screenwriter-editor-cinematographer: Hiromasa Hirosue
Screenplay consultant-cinematographer: Akie Namiki
Cinematography: Akie Namiki, Takeshi Kawai
Music: BUJI
No rating, 106 minutes