Under the Nagasaki Sky (Nagasaki no sora): Shanghai Review

Under the Nagasaki Sky - H 2013
A plodding script and predictable direction undercut an emotional drama about overcoming loss and unhappiness.

Yuya Yagira and Kie Kitano star in a Japanese drama about personal loss, which premiered in competition.

Flaunting a title that promises much more depth than it delivers, Under the Nagasaki Sky turns out to be a slow, uninvolving multi-character drama that takes itself much too seriously for what it is. True, two elderly characters are guilt-ridden survivors of the atomic bomb, but they are just examples of very unhappy people unable to overcome loss.  Director Taro Hyugaji (Portrait of the Wind) develops the one-dimensional characters too tearfully for the story to be touching, making prospects limited after the film’s festival bow in Shanghai competition and commercial release in Japan in July.

Popular young TV actress Kie Kitano (Ken and Mary) plays a nice college girl who suddenly loses her mother. In a domino effect, she breaks up with her med student boyfriend and starts hanging out with a suicidal mechanic, nobly limned by teen idol Yuya Yagira (who played the heart-breaking oldest brother in Kore-eda’s 2004 Nobody Knows, a role that won him the best actor award at Cannes at age 14.) Their relationship is so fake it vanifies all attempts by the young actors to give it some sense.

The other major character is a young wife (Izumi Inamori) who is still traumatized and depressed a year after her daughter’s sudden death. Her emotionally repressive Catholic family, who have survived religious persecution as well as the A-bomb, offer her little solace by affirming that it’s all God’s plan.   

Dramatic revelations in a Buddhist temple lead up to general catharsis, but too late to save this pedestrian entry.

Venue: Shanghai Film Festival (competition), June 20, 2013
Production company: PAL Entertainment Production
Cast: Kie Kitano, Izumi Inamori, Yuya Yagira, Chizuru Ikewaki
Director: Taro Hyugaji
Screenwriter: Hirofumi Harada
Producer: Kei Sawada
Executive producer: Wataru Suzuki
Director of photography: Koichi Kawakami
Production designer: Tomoyuki Maruo
Music:  Makoto Ozone
Editor:  Akimasa Kawashima
Sales:  Open Sesame Company
No rating, 98  minutes.