Thursday, February 18, 2010

PIFF Day 7 - "Nobody to Watch Over Me"

Even though I can't recommend "Nobody to Watch Over Me" (3), I would really like someone who understands Japanese culture to see it and give me their take. It's apparent throughout the film that a lot of what drives the story are aspects of Japanese culture that I can't really relate to, so I can't be sure that my reaction is totally fair to the film.

Before the story begins, two small children have been murdered, and the prime suspect is an 18-year-old boy. The film explains that police often will asign officers to protect family members of an accused in such a situation because of the very real risk of suicide. In the world of the film (which is not explained but is convincingly demonstrated), the risk results from a strong undercurrent of shame in Japanese culture along with the way in which family connections are viewed, which seems much more extreme than in Western culture. Additionally, in the world depicted here, the Japanese media are particularly vicious, hounding the families of suspects and demanding information and atonement for the crime. The film depicts high speed chase scenes comparable to what Princess Diana experienced, as a family member is hunted down by reporters, and hysterical online media efforts to locate and shame her.

All of that I could buy--but the film unraveled for me as the story unfolded. Most of it involves the 15-year-old sister of the accused, and the officer who is assigned to protect her, who is fighting his own demons from the bind police work puts him in with his own family and the conflicts between following the dictates of his superiors and actually protecting the public. I found the story-telling clumsy and increasingly unbelievable from a psychological standpoint. The relationship between the cop and the kid culminates in a conversation in which he gives her advice that sounds to me like absolute claptrap. Would it make better sense to an insightful Japanese person? Who knows?

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