Over The Fence (2016) by Nobuhiro Yamashita (T)

Over The Fence is a genuinely well-made film about people who are constantly grappling with traumas that are often self-inflicting.


An eerie, almost dreamlike score follows us through the life of Shiraiwa (Joe Odagiri) as his monotonous routine of paddling across the town from his vocational training school shows us his solitary lifestyle. So, when his brother-in-law offers to buy a car for himself, we are almost sure that his answer wouldn't be affirmative. Nobuhiro Yamashita's 'Over The Fence' makes us hang out with Shiraiwa and everyone connected to him until we are no longer just passing time with him. We want his clueless life to have a virtuous end. Life, that is often cruel doesn't offer all of us a fateful future. But we wish for him to hit a home run and run towards the next base with a joyous look on his face.

Over the Fence is screening at Japan Cuts, that will be on July 13 to 23.


The film is about people living their life with regrets. These regrets are often part of the mistakes they have made, but some of the regrets don't have a reason at all. Recently divorced Yoshio Shiraiwa (Joe Odagiri) is back to his hometown Hakodate. Joining the vocational training school is his way of getting an allowance and nothing more. After getting divorced and losing the custody of his kid, there's nothing really out there for him. In short, he has nothing to lose. The sole reason for his existence has come down to existence itself. This is until Kazuhisa (one of his classmates) takes him to a bar where he meets Satoshi. Satoshi is a hostess and has a weirdly eccentric air around her. Shiraiwa, who is almost always submerged in self-pity and self-doubt feels strangely comfortable around her, which leads to their instant connection.

Things aren't quite as alright as they seem, though. Nobuhiro Yamashita's film that plays around a time frame of a few days also places it's narrative around a softball match between the vocational school and some other school. When his camera isn't focused on Shiraiwa's face, the focus is usually on the smiling, giggling faces of the fellow members at the vocational school. We see them joking around, filling the void of Shiraiwa's life with a sort of lightness that he needs. The light isn't helping him, though. Beneath all the smiles and laughter in Yamashita's film, there's a great sense of melancholia that reeks through all these characters.


When Shiraiwa meets the odd yet full of life Satoshi, he is not only charmed, but is attracted towards her. Things start looking up for him only to be shattered to the ground when Satoshi's secrets unfold. The film dives into their relationship and the demons they are not ready to leave out. It's about flawed people unable to live with their flaws as they feel that no one will care enough to embrace them. There's so much bottled emotions inside these two characters that even when Yamashita allows them to lash  or burst out, it nearly meanders towards melodramatic turns, but never does.

Yamashita's film is not just a romance, in fact calling it a romance would be wrong on my side. It's a film about the push and pulls between two people. The kind that makes them feel caged in their own psychological trauma and the kind that instantly connects them, even though a lot is kept under the wraps of time.

Based on the short story 'Over Fence' by Yasushi Sato, Yamashita's film works because of a well-rounded effort. The cinematography by Ryuto Kondo motions us through the town slowly, mostly trying to present the realism of the life of people, which is translated to the screen in the best way possible. The opening shot where everyone is taking a cigarette break explain the minimalistic use of camera movements that go on through the entire runtime, by itself. It manages to point at the little aims that the film wishes to tick and gets there with ease.

The character of Satoshi (which is actually a male name)  has a wide range of feelings along with the emotional and physical outbursts. From mimicking animals to lashing out on an almost stranger, Satoshi is a tough character to understand, moreover play. Yu Aoi plays her part brilliantly. There are times when you get irritated at her reactions, but all of that is intentional and is downplayed enough to feel grounded. Joe Odagiri plays Shiraiwa with a subtle kindness and calmness. He manages to reveal only the necessary to both the people around him and to the audience, which makes us constantly engaged with him in spite of the dull outlook.

"Over The Fence" is a genuinely well-made film about people who are constantly grappling with traumas that are often self-inflicting. While Yamashita doesn't provide them with a getaway, his film hits a homerun with all the hope it has to offer.

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Asian Film Vault: Over The Fence (2016) by Nobuhiro Yamashita (T)
Over The Fence (2016) by Nobuhiro Yamashita (T)
Over The Fence is a genuinely well-made film about people who are constantly grappling with traumas that are often self-inflicting.
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