Kanta is a young man working as a day manual labourer, a role he drifted into after leaving school as soon as the law allowed. Living hand-to-mouth, stuck in a cycle of drink abuse, visits to prostitutes, and dead-end jobs, a glimmer of hope appears when he is befriended by Shoji, who offers up catalyst opportunities with the cute girl in the local bookstore. However, the demons Kanta carries inside him are not so easily exorcised.
Screenwriter Shinji Imaoka offers up a fascinating character study, superbly executed by Mirai Moriyama in an outstanding performance. From beginning to end, we are forced to shift our understanding of Kanta. You cannot help but pity a man - at 19 still in many ways a child - who has had to carry the burden of having a convicted sex offender for a father during his formative years. But then he does something disgusting like lick a girl's hand and you begin to suspect nature may win out over nurture. Aimless, amoral, conniving and at times misanthropic, Kanta is nonetheless human and frail. You see few paths for redemption in a modern Japan where Kanta's coworker is summarily dispensed with when a workplace accident renders him disabled, and for Kanta, the only avenue of negotiation for rent disputes are threats and insincere apologies.
Director Yamashita keeps it all plausible and authentic. At times Kanta's excesses evoke visceral disgust, as his various methods of ejecting bodily fluids - and one attempt at solids - are framed in close-up. At other times there is a light, jaunty tone to proceedings, often dictated by the music which may just be deployed ironically, given the hopeless drudgery of Kanta's day-to-day existence. The comedy is threaded in nicely, and never done for its own sake. Kanta's re-union with his ex-girlfriend and her new beau is funny and terrifying in equal measure. Kanta seems to have the worst life imaginable, till we meet his ex and glimpse the hellhole existence she endures.
Kengo Kôra plays Shoji as a guy trying to do his best for a friend while never losing his wariness. His patience is admirable, and the loss of it forgivable. Atsuko Maeda as love object Yasuko injects a difficult role with an element of mystery. Quite why such a well-balanced, intelligent young woman would indulge a shifty, creepy NEET is an active question that Imaoka's writing and Maeda's acting skill make come alive. In the hands of lesser talent, this would appear a flaw in the narrative. In modern-day Japan isolation, loneliness and withdrawal from society is practically an epidemic, and all three characters in some way embody elements of this.
In the end, Kanta may have found an escape. Or we may be seeing the dream that is the regret of a dying man in a rubbish heap. The film fittingly concludes with questions rather than answers. The social commentary is apt and incisive, but it is the character of Kanta, as unfathomable and memorable as Travis Bickle, that stays with you long after the final credits.
The Drudgery Train
Comedy / Drama
The Drudgery Train
Comedy / Drama
Kitamichi is a 19-year-old labor worker. He develops feelings for Yasuko who works in a used used bookstore, but he has never had a girlfriend. He also befriends Kusakabe, but jealousy soon threatens their friendship.
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
January 05, 2022 at 10:07 AM