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Sad Vacation

Shinji Aoyama

Sad Vacation
The director of the much-admired Eureka returns with a significantly shorter but no less humane exploration of familial trauma and emotional exorcism. Tadanobu Asano assays the lead role of a man who rescued a boy from the human trafficking operation for which he once worked; he’s now raising the child until such time as our hero’s old bosses come for their "property.”

But Asano has other things on his mind, specifically the mother who abandoned the child and how he can arrange his revenge on her. That will prove messy, as she’s taken up with a man whose business is largely staffed by drifters and dropouts, most of them young and with nowhere else to go. And though scheming to deliver the comeuppance he craves, our hero becomes sucked into the ebb and flow of the business, its residents and his own outsider status.

There’s much more to this drama than that outline can contain, with several character strands causing a tangle of mixed emotions; you half-expect the film to fall apart under the weight of its good intentions but it somehow never does. Shinji Aoyama’s vision is keen at capturing the disappointment of his embittered characters without succumbing to their cynicism, and although the film depicts people driven to extremes by deprivation and abuse, it holds out hope that communities can be created and lives can be redeemed.

While the film is a tad on the nose with some of its dialogue (and has a magic-realist coda totally out of character with the rest of the movie), mostly the approach is singular, uncompromising and strangely affirmative in spite of it all. If it’s not quite the magnificently strange creature that was Eureka, it still exerts a strong fascination. (Style Jam)
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