Japanese Story

Toni Colette, Gotaro Tsunashima, Lynette Curran, Matthew Dyktynski. Directed by Sue Brooks.
Running Time: 104 mins
Rated: M 15+

Japanese Story is a haunting film about the coming together of two people from opposite cultures, and their emotional transformation in the elemental Pilbara Desert of Western Australia.

Toni Colette plays Sandy, a young geologist setting up a software company for the detection and mining of minerals, who grudgingly takes a young Japanese businessman, Hiromitsu (Tsunishima) on a tour of the Pilbara
steel yards and mine fields in the hope that the expedition will lead to a sale.

When Sandy and Hiromitsu first meet at the airstrip they take an instant dislike to each other. He mistakes her for the driver, and dismisses her as loud and aggressive, while she sees him as sexist and rude. The situation continues to deteriorate be strained when Hiromitsu shows no real interest in either the mine or Sandy's software, but instead demands to be taken further afield.

Only when their four-wheel drive becomes bogged in sand near an abandoned mine, and their brief trip becomes a matter of survival under the blazing sun, do the Australian and Japanese break through their emotional and
cultural divide, and learn to respect each other.

Produced by the talented trio of women who in 1997 made the widely acclaimed Road to Nhill, Japanese Story is a profoundly moving and deceptively simple tale.

The film moves slowly at first. Familiar faces play their parts well, Lynette Curran (Caddie, The Boys) as Sandy's staunch, pragmatic Mum, and Matthew Dyktynski (Love and Other Catastrophes) as her no-nonsense business partner Blair. As Colette gets into her stride as the tough, work-driven Sandy, and Tsunishima's Hiromitsu sinks further into inscrutability, there is the feeling that we know exactly where this film is heading.

Then, quite suddenly, as events overtake the odd couple, and a strong attraction develops between them, Japanese Story lurches into another direction entirely.

The desert has been used since ancient times as a metaphor for change, and of coming to grips with the mystery of being. The vast Pilbara region, powerfully evoked through Ian Baker's camerawork, provides just such a scenario here, thanks to Yumiko Tanaka's moving cameo as Hiro's wife Yukiko, and Toni Collete's hugely affecting performance, which plunges the story to a deeper level through sheer honesty.

Jan Epstein is an Associate of the Australian

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