Sawako Decides – DVD Review

If a message could be taken from this, Yuya Ishi’s odd little comedy Sawako Decides, then it would possibly be that most of the time we don’t deserve anything better than whatever life gives us, so we shouldn’t aspire for anything more. It’s a slightly depressing message, and one that audiences may find difficult to swallow. It would, perhaps, be more palatable if the film itself was a lot funnier or engaging than it is, but sadly the humour, as well as the message, doesn’t translate all that successfully. It’s a hard film to hate, but it’s unlikely that you will love it, too.

Listless loser Sawako is in a dead end job and a dead end relationship in Tokyo when she finds out that her estranged father has fallen ill. She and her boyfriend return to her home out of town, where she takes over a clam-packing business, facing a workforce who don’t like her because of rumours that have been spread about her. Thrust into this new career, Sawako begins to take control of her life, and learns to assert herself.

The second half of the film is filled with moments of light laughs, as she stands up for herself and makes changes to the way the factory is run. A new company song elicits one or two sniggers, but it never rises above that, and it’s hampered by a maudlin first half which spends far too long showing why Sawako is a loser. Flat lighting and uninventive camera work means that the actors have to maintain interest, but only Hikari Mitsushima, in the title role, can muster a good performance. The supporting cast struggle with a poor script, coming across as over the top and, crucially, not very funny.

When the humour is only occasionally successful, the pressure is on the drama to add some weight to a rather ineffective plot. It’s a shame, therefore, that the descent into histrionics in the final act comes across as forced, lacking the emotional heft that it so desperately needed. It’s unfortunate because Sawako herself is really quite endearing. Nursing the beginnings of alcoholism and trying desperately to engage with her boyfriend’s grumpy daughter, Mitsushima ensures a lightness of touch which means the film is always quite watchable. If she was in a more engaging story and given a wittier script, then she could have been a character for the ages. As it is, she, and the film, are sadly forgettable.

Sawako Decides is out on DVD on October 3rd

About The Author


Nat (or Nathanael as he calls himself when he wants to sound a bit classier) is a student based in Edinburgh who watches far too many animated films for a guy his age. He even has a blog. dedicated to the subject. When he's not doing that, he's the film editor of The Journal, Edinburgh and a committed member of King's Church Edinburgh. He likes Terrence Malick far, far too much.

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