Eye For Film >> Movies >> To The Ends Of The Earth (2019) Film Review
To The Ends Of The Earth
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
When a security guard steps in to say that underage girls are not allowed on the ride, one of Yoko's colleagues steps in. She's not a girl, she's a grown woman, he explains. She's Japanese in Uzbekistan; the local women are generally much bigger, so one can understand the mistake, especially when Yoko is taking in the childlike, exuberant voice she uses for her audience. Yet whilst we get to know Yoko as a capable media professional, Kurosawa's shot choices invite us to buy into the notion that she is somehow childlike and more than usually vulnerable. This isn't typical cinematic sexism - what makes it interesting is that it's something she buys into herself.
The show that Yoko fronts is focused on variety and cultural discovery. Uzbekistan is new territory for her, however, and from the outset she seems out of her depth. Kurosawa gently explores the differences between the two cultures without disparaging either. The story builds up slowly. We watch Yoko as she tracks around from one location to another, usually following rather than leading her crew, making occasional suggestions but clearly having her confidence dented when she makes mistakes. Former pop star Atsuko Maeda is wonderful in the lead, the perfect match for Kurosawa's style, communicating volumes with the most delicate of expressions. She flits between illusory child and bruised, slightly puzzled adult with ease.
As we move into the latter part of the film, the pace changes abruptly, throwing Yoko off balance.The special terror of recognising one's aloneness among people with whom one cannot communicate sets in. The previously steady camera is suddenly in motion. The comforting ordinariness of grey days gives way to sunshine which paints the city like a holiday brochure and leaves our heroine feeling exposed, her cheerful orange dress making her all too visible.
With strong support from Shôta Sometani as the producer trying to prioritise the show but too often drawn into looking after its star, To The Ends Of The Earth presents us with a character who must walk through fire before she can recognise her own courage for what it is. Halfway through, she is challenged to sing - something she longs to make a career out of - but says that she finds it too difficult in front of others. Reporting is simple because it requires only reflexes; singing requires emotion.
Wending its way to the mountains of Zaamin for a final scene that echos The Sound Of Music, this is a film that blends fantasy and musical elements into the mix with such grace that one barely notices the transition. It's a film that takes its time but finds a natural rhythm, fluid and organic, drawing in the viewer as Yoko gradually forms a real connection with the world.Reviewed on: 09 Dec 2020