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New Release Review - JOURNEY TO THE SHORE

A widow accompanies her husband's ghost on a journey.





Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Starring: Eri Fukatsu, Tadanobu Asano, Masaaki Akahori, Yu Aoi



The makers of the recent spate of American Christian themed movies could learn a lot from Journey to the Shore, a movie that wears its spiritualism on its sleeve, but doesn't feel the need to rub said sleeve in your face. There's nothing mean spirited or bigoted about its message, and as an atheist I had no difficulty identifying with and warming to its central conceit.



Last week the BBC announced that they had run twice as many celebrity obituaries in the first four months of 2016 than over the same period last year. Some huge names have unexpectedly left us, and in the age of social media, the outpouring of grief, whether genuine or merely bandwagon jumping, has been unavoidable. In the case of David Bowie and Prince, fans, both devoted and casual, immediately loaded up iTunes or looked to their CD shelves, listening to their favourite tracks in an attempt to keep the spirit of their idols alive. Many would have wished they had been more vocal in their appreciation of a fallen artist during their time on earth. When we lose a loved one, our first reaction is often one of regret for not letting them know how much we appreciated their presence or not spending more time in their company. In Kiyoshi Kurosawa's gentle drama Journey to the Shore, the protagonist gets a second chance to correct such oversights.


Piano teacher Mizuke (Eri Fukatsu) lives a lonely existence, having been widowed three years prior when her husband, Yusuke (Tadabano Asano), was lost at sea. One evening, (literally) out of the blue, Yusuke arrives at Mizuke's apartment and informs her that having drowned, he has spent the past three years making his way back to her. Yusuke invites his wife on a trip to meet the various people that helped him on his return, and the two set off.

Though based on Buddhist and Shinto beliefs, Journey to the Shore is a lot like those Christian American TV shows Highway to Heaven and Touched by an Angel, with two protagonists, one living, one a ghost, encountering various characters and helping them deal with a spiritual crisis. Those they encounter and aid include an elderly printer full of regret over his abusive treatment of his wife, a diner owner who wishes she had shown more affection to her little sister before she died, and a young widow who, like Mizuke, longs to be reunited with her husband.


Along the way we also learn of the relationship between Mizuke and Yusuke, itself troubled. In the film's standout scene, Mizuke temporarily departs from her returned husband to confront the woman he led an affair with. Far from a catfight, the two women bond over their shared love.

The makers of the recent spate of American Christian themed movies could learn a lot from Journey to the Shore, a movie that wears its spiritualism on its sleeve, but doesn't feel the need to rub said sleeve in your face. There's nothing mean spirited or bigoted about its message, and as an atheist I had no difficulty identifying with and warming to its central conceit.


While at times the drama does feel a little flat, there are tender and touching moments that will wrench you apart. A scene where the ghost of a young girl plays piano for her heartbroken sister will bring forth sniffles from the most cold-hearted viewer. There's also some decidedly arch humour, such as when Yusuke makes his initial reappearance and is chided for wearing shoes in Mizuke's house. At 128 minutes, it certainly suffers from pacing issues, but there are plenty of worthwhile stops on this journey.
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