TJFF Review: 'Hope' Offers a New Perspective on a Whodunnit Directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi

Starring Shinichi Tsutsumi, Yuriko Ishida, Kenshi Okada, Kaya Kiyohara
TJFF Review: 'Hope' Offers a New Perspective on a Whodunnit Directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi
Police procedurals are normally thrilling whodunnits, and the families (of the victim or the accused) are a secondary storyline to add emotion to an otherwise cold story. But in Yukihiko Tsutsumi's Hope, the focus is solely on the pain a family endures and the strength required in the face of such adversity.

Hope centres on the Ishikawa family, a normal middle class family whose bonds are tested when their son, Tadashi (Kenshi Okada), doesn't return home one evening. Although concerned, Tadashi's parents, Kazuto (Shinichi Tsutsumi) and Kiyomi (Yuriko Ishida), initially believe him to have simply broken curfew. However, as news surfaces that one of Tadashi's classmates has been found murdered, the Ishikawas find themselves in the middle of an investigation with Tadashi as a possible suspect.

As the investigation progresses and with Tadashi still missing, Kazuto and Kiyomi are faced with the media camping outside their home, vandalism and accusations from the public, and daughter Miyabi (Kaya Kiyohara) getting harassed at school. Each day Tadashi is missing, the Ishikawas battle with his fate, wondering if he's dead or alive, with an even more horrifying question of which would they prefer.

Hope is based on a popular Japanese novel, Nozomi by Shusuke Shizukui, and is an interesting examination of the unconditional, sometimes irrational love parents have for their children. Kazuto is firm that they should wait until all of the facts have been presented before allowing themselves to reach any conclusions, while Kiyomi believes they should prepare themselves for Tadashi being the perpetrator and caring for him regardless. There is a particularly desperate — yet relatable — scene in which Kiyomi hears that Tadashi may be brought in by the police soon, and she immediately goes to the grocery store to prepare his favourite foods to bring to the station. A decidedly motherly response to the situation.

All of the performances in Hope are fantastic, with Ishida as a standout as Kiyomi. Her torment and internal struggle are felt in every facial movement and word spoken. Okada carries a father's burden well, emphasizing the steadfast nature of Kazuto but showing cracks in the armour at just the right moments.

Aesthetically speaking, Hope is filmed wonderfully with excellent use of colour. Rather than use the usual cool tones to complement the bleakness of the situation, Hope floods the screen with warmth to highlight the vulnerability of the Ishiwaka family. Moreover, the choice of shots throughout is very effective; in particular, an early overhead shot of the Ishikawa house is mirrored in the last scene of the movie, highlighting the marked change of the family from beginning to end in a simple and delicate manner.

While some of the secondary plots, in particular one involving a tabloid journalist, seem a bit unnecessary to the film and can interrupt the pacing of the film, Hope is a well-told and well-executed family drama. It balances melodrama well without going too far off the deep end, and the ongoing mystery of Tadashi's whereabouts keeps the audience engaged throughout.

The 2021 Toronto Japanese Film Festival runs online from June 5 to 27. (Kadokawa Pictures)