Shion Sono's view of post-tsunami Japan is, in turns, painfully bleak and shockingly hopeful. Made quickly after the natural disasters of March 2011, Himizu revolves around one willfully "average" student, Sumida (Shota Sometani). His school (one teacher in particular) pushes excellence with the fervor of a John Phillip Souza anthem. As the teacher's ideologies rattle the desks, a determined girl, Chazawa (Fumi Nikaido), falls for Sumida. At home, her parents plod their way through a seemingly sincere plan to murder her (they adorn a dedicated guillotine with all the hope of Christmas) and yet she remains cheerful outside of home because of her adoration for the average student, a boy who likens himself to a mole, a pest whose life can't possibly be aspirational as it burrows unconcerned about anything beyond survival. A few tsunami victims have camped out around the boat rental house that Sumida's mom lackadaisically runs (it's really more of a front for what may or may not be the place she takes her johns). His mother's revolving door of men gets a blind eye from Sumida, but his father's misdeeds weigh on him like a bad inheritance. The man only comes by to beat his kid, wish him dead and steal money from his still-wife. The squatter's watch apologetically; their sweetness and communal sentiment towards Sumida makes his parents' behavior seem nearly sacrilegious—though the nouveau-hobos help Sumida lick his wounds and change his tune after the familial battle-royales. When Sumida's mom abandons him and his father comes looking for money to resolve an unpayable debt, Sumida cracks and begins a stabbing spree with a heart of gold. He carries a kitchen knife through the streets in search of violent whackjobs to rid the world of—it's a job for a burrower and this one's more self-sacrificial than Travis Bickle, and far more tragic. Chazawa helps raise Sumido out of the ashes by doing wholesome but comfortingly un-extraordinary things, and her forceful care helps him realize his good for the world requires repentance. As they run from the boathouse to the police, their marching song is shrill, raw and desperate, as if to say the future worthy of the world must be conquered, and by beasts meeker than lions and eagles. The audience will pant alongside their exhausted advancing steps. Based on a manga of the same name, Himizu is one filmmaker's affirming valentine to his splintered nation.
Sales: Gaga Communications, Tokyo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cast: Shota Sometani, Fumi Nikaido, Yosuke Kubozuka, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Anne Suzuki, Takahiro Nishijima
Director/Screenwriter: Shion Sono
Genre: Drama; Japanese-language, subtitled
Running time: 139 min
Release date: Unset