His Lost Name (Yoake) (2018)

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Image via miff.com.au

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This understated and enigmatic drama by Nanako Hirose is surprisingly meditative and captivating, although occasionally frustrating and ultimately unsatisfying.

Tetsuro (Kaoru Kobayashi) finds a young man (Yûya Yagira) washed up on the river bank. Taking him home, he gives him a place to sleep without asking too many questions. The young man says his name is Shinichi although it’s pretty clear that he’s not being truthful. Tetsuro gives him work at his woodworking shop and his girlfriend, and office manager, Hiromi (Keiko Horiuchi), and co-worker Shoji (Young Dais) do their best to welcome him, despite his caginess about his past.

Tetsuro has lost a son, coincidentally also called Shinichi, and a fragile bond develops between the two as each try to find a meaning to life that transcends their regrets and mistakes. The awkwardness is palpable as Tetsuro, for all his talk, seems not to have learned from the mistakes he made with his son. Hiromi says it best, “You both look uncomfortable. Like a real father and son.”

Shinichi seems paralysed by his inability to meet the expectations of others and I am not sure if this is an individual failing or a cultural obligation. Hirose doesn’t make this clear and leaves us with an ending that I thought might resolve definitively and maybe violently but doesn’t. Like Shinichi, with his beautiful face and red tinged, tearstained eyes, we hope for a better future but must be satisfied with not knowing.


Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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