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Australia 2003
Directed by
Sue Brooks
110 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Ruth Williams
3.5 stars

Japanese Story

Synopsis: Sandy Edwards (Toni Collette) is well ensconced in the complete city lifestyle. A geologist by profession, she has recently set up in business with ex-lover Baird (Matthew Dyktynski) and they have software they need to sell. The news of a visiting Japanese entrepreneur, Tachibina Hiromitsu (Gotaro Tsunashima) who has shown some interest in purchasing said software, results in Sandy taking an unexpected trip with him to the Australian outback and the kind of unexpected outcome that life will sometimes place in our path.

Japanese Story is one of those films which, after seeing it I wanted to go straight back to the cinema and appreciate the effort that the filmmakers put in to making it. Allow me to give you an idea of what I mean with a quote from the director:"The Pilbara was an enormously ambitious undertaking and occasionally we thought we’d bitten off more than we could chew. Initially we were advised to film in South Australia as it was considered more achievable. But, by then we’d fallen in love with the Pilbara - having visited four or five times - and knew all of the water holes, all of the mines and all of the roads". It is impressive that the collaborative team of Alison Tilson as writer, Sue Brooks as director, and Sue Maslin as producer, have put so much of themselves into making the film, and in the end, I do believe it has paid off. The connection between the physical remoteness of the place and the psychological remoteness of the characters is a dynamic that is deftly explored.

Whether or not you find Toni Collette appealing in the character of Sandy Edwards, she has captured that aspect of our nature that so entraps us in our own wants and needs that there is little time or desire to understand ‘the other’. Opposite her, Tachibina Hiromitsu is equally as dismissive of his travelling companion. Mistaking her for his driver, they set off on their travels, as disgruntled a pair as you are ever likely to meet. They both arrive with ulterior motives, and it is only when they are forced to face the possibility that they might not survive the outback, do they begin to see how blind they have been.

The initial inspiration for the story came via Sharon Connolly from Film Australia. Sharon had recently spent time working in Japan and was taken with the idea of the tensions that would inevitably arise between a Japanese man and an Australian woman that were forced to spend time together. Considering the geographical and economic ties we have with many of our Northern neighbours, I find the issues raised in Japanese Story very timely. Fortunately, the film is not only about Anglo-Japanese business arrangements!

The intimacy that develops between Sandy and Hiromitsu may at first seem inevitable; you know what they say about leaving a man and a woman together in isolation for long enough, something is sure to give. However, as the tagline suggests, some stories can change your life. I recommend you don’t waste your time attempting to work out in what way their lives change, it’s more satisfying to sit back and allows the filmmakers to take you on the journey as it is intended. What would you do if it happened to you?




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