Sawako Decides

Sawako Decides


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

"It can't be helped."

This is the oft repeated catchphrase of Sawako (Mitsushima Hikari), a 23-year-old country girl who, after going through five jobs and five boyfriends during her five years in Tokyo, has realised that life is unlikely to get any better. "I have no real dreams or aspirations," she tells a colleague – and if she suggests of her latest boyfriend Kenichi (Endo Masashi), a divorcé with a young daughter (Aihara Kira) and a knitting habit, "Maybe he's not so average – he's more lower middle'", she also concedes, "I'm very much a sub-middling woman myself." In the film's opening scene, Sawako is shown undergoing colonic irrigation – and in the final sequence, she is seen sharing out a massive watermelon that has been fertilised with her own faeces. The implicit message: life may be shit, but from it sweetness can sometimes grow.

Copy picture

In other words, resignation is key to happiness in Ishii Yuya's oddball dramedy. When Sawako moves back to her hometown to take over the family's financially troubled clam-packing factory, it is not brimming optimism nor can-do spirit that enables her to win over the recalcitrant female staff, to become reconciled with her estranged (and terminally ill) father, to stand by her errant man, to discover her maternal feelings towards his daughter, and to turn the business from red to black. Rather what sees Sawako through her many problems is a willingness to acknowledge and even embrace her own mediocrity – an attitude that proves strangely liberating in a culture where more usually the saving of face and the projection of status are considered paramount.

Here in Britain, though, taking comfort in one's own (and everyone else's) inherent crapness is something of a national pastime, so that, on these shores at least, Sawako's journey into her own ordinariness is likely to be met with a collective shrug of indifference. If what Sawako decides is to stop grumbling and just settle for less, British viewers will be left wondering what took her so long to reach this conclusion. No matter how revolutionary this film's philosophy may have seemed at home, here it just seems to be stating the obvious, and its occasional flashes of quirkiness are never enough to justify its overstretched duration. Even with Mitsushima's winning performance, there is something about Sawako Decides that just seems sub-middling or, at best, gets lost in translation. It can't be helped.

Reviewed on: 20 Oct 2010
Share this with others on...
A young woman struggles to save her family's ailing clam-packing business.
Amazon link

Director: Yuya Ishii

Writer: Yuya Ishii

Starring: Hikari Mitsushima, Masashi Endo, Kira Aihara, Kotaro Shiga, Ryo Iwamatsu

Year: 2009

Runtime: 112 minutes

Country: Japan

Search database:

Related Articles:

Big in Japan

If you like this, try:

Fine, Totally Fine
Instant Swamp