MASAHIRO MOTOKI, KENSHIN FUJITA IN THE LONG EXCUSEJapanese males growing up
A film about awakenings, Miwa Nishikawa's The Long Excuse
shifts focus. First it's on Sachio (Masahiro Motoki of Departures
), a novelist and minor TV celebrity past his prime. When first seen he's a cad who's rude to his hairdresser wife Natsuko (Eri Fukatsu), and totally self-centered when she dies in a bus that crashes into a frozen lake. He's sleeping with another woman when he gets the news. He lays his grieving on heavy for public attention but feels nothing. Attention shifts to Yoichi (Pistol Takehara), truly grieving his
wife, a friend of Natsuko's who died with her. Nishikawa, who bases this screenplay on her own novel, loads the dice, giving Sachio a life that favors superficiality and making Yoichi a truck driver who's not too bright so he can be a direct, simple guy. It works though. Attention shifts again when Sachio helps Yoichi take care of his pre-middle school son Shinpei (Kenshin Fujita) and preschool daughter Akari (Tamaki Shiratori) because Yoichi can't cope. This enables Sachio to feel good about himself and delay facing the loneliness of his own grief. Action spans a year and Fujita, visibly growing into adolescence and rebellion, bright, angry, and at odds with his simple dad, steals the show, though the two adult males do some noisy fighting and growing up. Some interesting bonding and reality-checking take place here. Nishikawa doesn't avoid sentimentality 100%, but this is an interesting watch with fresh female angles on Japanese family life. The Long Excuse/Nagai iiwake
/ 永い言い訳, 124 mins., debuted at Toronto Sept. 2016; ten other festivals including the San Francisco International Film Festival, as part of which it was screened for this review.