Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 4th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2010
Director: Yuya Ishii
Writer: Yuya Ishii
Cast: Hikari Mitsushima, Masashi Endo, Kira Aihara, Ryo Iwamatsu, Kotaro Shiga
DVD released: October 3rd, 2011
Approximate running time: 112 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 12 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese
DVD Release: Third Window Films
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £10.99
Content wise, Sawako Decides is a melting pot of genres, one moment it is a romantic comedy, then next moment it is a poignant drama about daughter mending her relationship with her estranged father and throw in some well laid moments of satire for good measure. And while this type of shuffling from one genre to the next, can derail a film’s narrative. This schizophrenic melding of genre’s actually works in this film’s favor.
With that being said, this film is first and foremost a character driven piece that revolves around a young woman named Sawako, whose life has been nothing more than mediocrity. In the five years since she left her home town, she has had five jobs and five boyfriends. So as you can see, she is not exactly the easiest character to latch onto and along the way herself loathing starts wearing think quickly. Thankfully by the film’s final act Sawako finally gets over the hump, that has held her back for so long. And while her journey is not an easy road to travel with her, it is her ultimate transformation by the film’s finale, that is this film’s most rewarding moment.
At just under two hours, there are many peaks and valleys in this film. And this is most evident in this film’s pacing with it best describe as erratic. And while there are issues with pacing, these are for the most part quickly resolved since there are no moments that bring the film’s narrative to a standstill.
As mentioned before humor plays a integral part in this film, with the bulk of the humor being in line with ‘quirky’ humor that has become synonymous with modern Japanese cinema. And while this type of humor is often hit and miss, thankfully in this film it hits the mark the majority of the time.
Without a doubt this film most enduring asset is its leading lady Hikari Mitsushima (Love Exposure, Kakera a Piece of Our Life) in the role of Sawako. She is a given the monumental task of making a audience care for a character, who for the majority of the film does not even care for herself. And while her performance is pretty darn good, the moments in which Sawako interacts with her boyfriend Kenichi are notch below level she achieves in all of her other scenes. Her strongest moments performance wise are the scenes in which Sawako interacts with Kenichi’s daughter
Third Window Films presents Sawako Decides in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. Colors and flesh tones look accurate and details generally look crisp. It should be noted that this transfer is a NTSC to PAL standards conversion and there are some mild instances of combing.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in Japanese with English subtitles. Dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented.
Extras for this release include a brief introduction to the film and interview with screenwriter / director Yuya Ishii (27 minutes 24 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English) and a trailer for the film (1 minute 51 seconds -anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles). Topics covered include his filmmaking process, the film’s he has worked on and where he wants to go as a filmmaker. Also included with this release are trailers for Villain, Cold Fish, Confessions, Confessions of a Dog, Memories of Matsuko, Kamikaze Girls, Kakera Piece of Love, Fish Story, Lala Pipo, Love Exposure, Instant Swamp, Fine Totally Fine, Turtles are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers, Funuke Show Some Love, You Losers! Dasepo Naughty Girls, Peppermint Candy, The President’s Last Bang, Say Yes, No Blood No Tears and Friend. Overall Sawako Decides gets a good release from Third Window Films.