This is either a light tragedy or a tragic comedy. In fact, depending on how you decide to approach it, you could see it as inspirational if you look at it a bit sideways. Whichever you choose, however, it is beautifully filmed and wonderfully carried by Kikuchi (Pacific Rim). Both of these aspects helped it to many nominations and wins on the festival circuit.
The Zellner’s, who wrote and directed the film, have a wicked sense of humor. They use that talent to raise the life of Kumiko above the sad spiral she is in from the beginning and keep us from descending to her emotional level. They help us identify with her obsession, even though we recognize how false it is. They allow the story to play out, providing glimpses of normality and humanity throughout. They also both have roles in the film, but better to realize that as the credits roll. Suffice to say they do a good job on both sides of the camera. If you view this via disc, the alternate endings are also worth perusing when you’re done (and be sure to watch them all through to the end). What I sampled of the commentary was equally intriguing.
This isn’t an easy film in some ways, but it is hypnotic and compelling. To try and discuss it is to diminish the value of the journey it creates. Find an evening to curl up with this one when you’re open to all possibilities and just go with it.