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Sunday, 28 September 2003

Japanese Story

The aptly-named Sandy (Toni Collette) is a geologist, not a chauffer. So why is she driving a Japanese businessman called Hiromitsu (Gotaro Tsunashima) around the deserts of Western Australia? That's a question she's asking herself: she came out to meet him on his visit because she'd be told there was a chance his company might be interested in the software her company's written, but he seems a lot more interested in travelling as far out into the desert as he can. It's not exactly a massive surprise then when they manage to get their four wheel-drive bogged, and the barely buried tensions between the feisty Sandy and the restrained Hiromitsu come to the surface. What comes after that, and the way the bond between them changes, is - only thing is, there's a little note at the bottom of just about everything to do with this film that says "the filmmakers would like to request that after seeing the film, audiences refrain from disclosing the plot within Japanese Story, so as not to spoil the film for others." So sorry, no big plot twist revealing here. Suffice to say that there is something of a twist - no extended dream sequences, identity shifts, or unbelievable revelations though - and that it isn't the kind of thing that'll have you storming out of the cinema in disgust. This is a quiet, low-key film about two people gradually revealing themselves to each other and the audience, and both performances are spot-on. The setting is just as impressive whether it's the expanse of the desert or some very large mining equipment, and while the story itself is stripped-back to the point of non-existence, every scene in it is arranged to bring out the emotional depths within. The more you're willing to put into Japanese Story, the more you'll take from it, and this quiet tale of love has a lot to offer.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #308)

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