My first foray into Japanese foreign live action movies in a long time was a fascinating experience. Going into the movie, I knew that I should expect something radical and devastating as the film progressed. The plot is relatively straightforward, and seems almost sweet- a man forced raise his son alone after his wife's death eventually decides he should remarry. He is a relatively shy fellow, so decides to meet prospects he will ask his friend whose into movie production to stage an audition, ostensibly for a film.
He sits in on the audition, looks at resumes and head shots, and eventually settles on a young woman. She is quiet and lightly skinned. His friend the producer warns that the story on her resume did not check out- her place of employment had been closed for a long time, an ex-boyfriend vanished mysteriously. This compels our protagonist to hold off on calling her for a while. She waits obediently by the telephone. They begin a courtship, having dinner together, eventually taking a weekend away. When they finally consummate their relationship, he wakes up to find his love vanished.
This begins the movie's second act- the first act has a sweet, tender, and light tone. The second act plays in parts a bit like a Japanese film noir- the protagonist goes to old haunts of his lover, trying to figure out where she has gone. The films creepiness factor elevates slowly as aspects of her past become illuminated. When he returns from his search to his house one night she is there. It is at this point that apparentally numerous moviegoers stumbled out of movie theaters apparentally vomiting during this movie's theatrical run. I did not find it that hard to watch- but suffice to say the movie loses an echoes of sweetness that remained.
This movie's pacing is what stood out to me. It built so slowly, the first half moving almost at a crawl on occasion. But the last half hour or so just flies by, like a bloody bullet train. I was certainly riveted. The film's message appears to be a thoroughgoing critique of the objectification of women in Japanese society. I felt this was the strength and weakness of the movie- it plays like a polemic against this objectification because our protagonist only minimally engages in this objectification. We do not see him consuming offensive pornography. He is a loving, caring father, who has raised a charming intelligent and polite young boy. He is obviously pained by the death of his wife, and we are given no clues that their life was violent or even unsettled in the least. His shyness manifests itself in the method of mate selection- but during the audition when the producer forces some women to disrobe the protagonist appears uncomfortable, even disconcerted. We should of course be deeply troubled by even "benign" (if such a thing exists?) objectification of women- and the movie's message is that we can tolerate none of it. We like the protagonist- the second half of this movie punishes us for this decision. I heartily reccomend.