Journey of the Tortoise (2017) by Tadashi Nagayama

The story about a road trip going wild.


What I always admired from Japanese cinema is the powerful contrast it has: capable of creating the most psychological/eerie stories filled with blood and gore; meanwhile they are also capable of creating the most intimate and beautiful stories someone can tell. This film: "Journey of the Tortoise", directed by Tadashi Nagayama, enters the second group, telling a family road trip drama mixed with some comedy elements.

Journey of the Tortoise will screen at Camera Japan, that will be in Rotterdam 21-24 September and Amsterdam 29 September - 1 October


Shintaro is this man (Tomoki Kimura) who takes over his child Noboru (Mizuki Suwa). Both of them are on this trip accompanied by Shintaro's brother (Yota Kawase) and his fiancée (Spica Yufube) to attend their wedding. Now, there is another member travelling with our main characters on this family trip, that is Shintaro's pet turtle. Shintaro's brother is this wacky and impulsive man who is always out of control, and it seems that Shintaro is dragged by his way of being, as they are always together. Besides, meanwhile Yota Kawase's character is this crazy and unpredictable man, Tomoki Kimura's character is more pusillanimous. For this matter, his son doesn't take Shintaro seriously, and goes by his own with this mean attitude of his.

The interesting thing about this film is it's fluency, in spite of sometimes switching tones. Everytime Yota Kawase appears on screen, strange things are about to happen, and we switch from normal everyday situations to more surreal ones. In spite of some brief comedy elements that may seem as random, the thing is that they are justified, and at the end they make sense. For the most part, this is a story about a father and son relationship, also dealing with past traumas that affects the father figure.


As it seems usual on this drama films, the pacing is slow and serene, but with a nimbleness touch to it. The film does not drag in any moment, and thanks to it, the experience ends up being quite enjoyable. Kudos to the director and screenwriters Tadashi Nagayami and Yuriko Suzuki for being capable of translating this supposed normal family experience into a full feature film. You may not fully sometimes understand what is going on in the screen, but at the end it is always shown to you that things happen because of something. In the director's words, this film is based on a personal experience with his father, so it would be curious to find out how much fiction there is in this film.

Performances are quite good in general, especially from Yota Kawase. It's very easy to end up in absolute ridiculousness with characters like him, due to overacting, but his performance is praiseworthy and funny. Each time he ends up on screen, he elevates the film. Tomoki Kimura's performance may seem a bit bland, but you notice that it goes in with the character's personality, and at the end of the film, you get to know why he acts like he acts. Probably the boy's performance by Mizuki Suwa may be the most flawed one. Not saying is bad, but comparing it to the adult performances, it shows he is on a step below them.

Spica Yufune's character does not show up that much in the film, but she clearly stands out each time she is on scene. She ends up representing the most wise and sensible character of all.


Yoshiaki Jinno's cinematography stands out whenever he tries to capture all the environment and surroundings around the characters. There are some grass and sea shots that are beautifully framed. Wide and mid shots are frequently used to show the action, meanwhile close-ups are only used on small occassions, but strongly reinforcing the visual impact of the film.
Alongside with the film also goes some satisfying music accompanying the transitions.

"Journey of the Tortoise" transforms a so called real life story into a charming road trip drama filled with surreal and comic moments. It's 1 hour and 20 minute run time that passes as quick as it looks, making the experience of watching it much worth it.


COMMENTS

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Asian Film Vault: Journey of the Tortoise (2017) by Tadashi Nagayama
Journey of the Tortoise (2017) by Tadashi Nagayama
The story about a road trip going wild.
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