Love And Honour

Love And Honour


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

In the wake of all the recent concern about blind characters in films, Love And Honour is a superb example of how to get it right. Though it follows in a long tradition - both actual and cinematic - in featuring a blind Samurai swordsman, it brings a refreshing realism to its approach which in turn adds a fresh charge to this essentially simple fable.

Shinnojo Mimura (Takuya Kimura) is a food taster for his feudal lord. It's a position of great honour, but it also entails dangers. When he eats something bad, Mimura falls into a coma from which he emerges without his sight. At first feeling useless and wanting to kill himself, he gradually adjusts and tries to regain some independence, all with the support of his patient and devoted wife. But how can she, as a woman, support them financially? In order to help her husband, she is forced to make a terrible sacrifice.

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Love And Honour is a film about truth and lies, about the conflicts between honesty, trust and dependence that can emerge within relationships and about the situations in which people might prefer not to know what's really going on. Mimura's doctor at first allows him to think that his blindness will be temporary, trying to give him hope, but in fact it's not until Mimura has hit rock bottom that he can rediscover his purpose in life and start to put things back together.

Kimura gives an excellent performance in the central role, utterly convincing at every stage in his journey. His attempts to relearn basic skills and, eventually, to wield his sword again, are not presented in the usual fairy tale manner. It isn't just about confidence and will. He falls over, he misses things, he makes mistakes. He is vulnerably physically just as he is emotionally, though it takes him rather longer to be able to acknowledge the latter. He is part of society that works perfectly as long as everyone can perform their given role, but his failure to fit in, in the long term, might be a gift that enables him to expand his horizons as a human being.

With a touching performance from Rei Dan as Kayo, the wife, and with excellent support all round, this is a gentle but moving film that will appeal to many fans of traditional Japanese cinema and to fans of romance. It's beautifully shot and charming told, and has a few surprises up its sleeve.

Reviewed on: 12 Dec 2008
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After a Samurai goes blind his wife makes a terrible sacrifice to try and help him, but is she doing so at the cost of their love?
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Director: Yôji Yamada

Writer: Yôji Yamada, based on the book by Shûhei Fujisawa.

Starring: Takuya Kimura, Rei Dan, Takashi Sasano, Mitsugoro Bando, Kaori Momoi, Nenji Kobayashi, Ken Ogata

Year: 2006

Runtime: 121 minutes

Country: Japan


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