Written & Directed by: #RyoKagawa
Short Film Review by: #ChrisBuick
Japanese #shortfilm Michiko from writer/director and Ryo Kagawa is a cautionary tale of making the most of the time you have with the people you love before it's too late. Inspired by a true story, Ryo (Matsuoka), a man who spends more time worrying about his job than his deteriorating marriage or ailing spouse, learns this lesson the hard way after his wife, the titular Michiko (Yonezawa), begins to suffer from severe schizophrenia and is subsequently hospitalised, her ever worsening condition leading Ryo to (eventually) reflect on his lack of due care and attention.
There are a couple of commendable aspects to this #shortfilm, however they are heavily outnumbered by several others that unfortunately aren’t up to scratch. Kagawa has succeeded for the most part in producing a decent looking film, a few shots are actually quite eye-catching but because the film runs somewhat longer than it perhaps should, certain shots inevitably end up being reused again and again until eventually they lose their aesthetic charm almost completely.
The writing also falls prey to very much the same problem, but unlike the visuals it never has any remarkable moments of elegance. Instead, it’s an overlong narrative loaded with throwaway scenes, lazily written dialogue that can’t even be claimed to have been simply lost in transition and exposition so on the nose it is practically punches you in the face. But where the writing really under-delivers (and ultimately where the film suffers most) is in its characters.
There is a complete absence of chemistry between the two leads, something that can also be attributed to a clear disparity in acting quality. Where Yonezawa makes a valiant effort to inject as much as she can into what little there is to work with, actually producing quite a laudable performance that makes hers the most complex and interesting character of the piece by a mile, Matsuoka simply cannot keep up, his character seemingly under-served by the writing which coupled with a fluctuating performance leaves Ryo appearing unlikeable and inspiring zero sympathy for his suffering, a clear miss in what is surely the point of the piece. Truth be told, apart from what Yonezawa manages to drag kicking and screaming out of almost nothing, there is little else to provoke any interest or emotional investment in their obviously painful story, which might sound heartless to say given the films premise and origins but is unfortunately still the case.
Michiko is a film full of the best possible intentions with a story that is undeniably poignant and necessary, but unfortunately it never presents it effectively enough to fully do its tender subject matter any real justice. Had it been a leaner, more focused effort, it perhaps could have ultimately served its important story so much better.