The love of a half dead heart will keep you half alive!

Don’t cry after my death, I won’t know it. Love me when I am alive

Luffina Lourduraj

Title
   Be With You (2004)
Also known as
Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu
Genre
Fantasy, Romance
Written by
Directed by
Country of Origin
 Japan  
Running time
 119 minutes 

oh! … brief

Takumi and his six-year-old son, Yuji are struggling with life following the death of Mio Aio, wife and mother to the two. Yuji suffers from an illness and anxiety which causes fainting spells and leaves him unable to organize himself and the structures around him. He feels an enormous sense of guilt, believing that his wife’s passing had to do with his illness and that he made her unhappy.

Mio Aio shared a very strong bond with her son, and before she passes she shares with him a special picture book. In the book, her character departs from earth to take on a celestial body called the “Archive Star” which returns during the following rainy season. He eagerly awaits her return.

oh! … talks film

WOW! This was an unexpected production. Basically, this film will require you to suspend all disbelief in reincarnation. It’s really hard to tell a romantic story when one of the main characters is missing, whether spiritually or physically, but I find this film did just that by adding just a pinch of supernatural.

The screenplay is based on a Japanese novel, Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu by Takuji Ichikawa.

Writer, Yoshikazu Okada created a strong narrative. Adding a fantastical return of a character through the reincarnation of sorts was surprising, and beats back those ghost returns that often feature in drama productions. It works for this film though, but that is because of the insightful writing of the screenplay. The screenplay creates a very intimate experience of existential love. The film talks about love, but it is not limited to the love between a man and a woman, instead, it is a look at love between a husband and wife, a mother and her son, the different kinds of love we as humans share with family and friends.

Because of this introspection on the topic of love, the foundation of the film is richer in depth and warmth, the anguish of loss is that much more poignant and the audience can tangibly appreciate the emptiness that comes from the loss of a beloved person. I understand this feeling, a family reeling from the loss of a central figure. When my father passed on, that first year following his tragic death, our family crumbled. We were all grieving in different ways and we bumped up against each other, not always in a good way. Walking through grief can be extremely hard, especially for children who are old enough to understand what death is and what it means. And when a special bond is formed with a parent and then that parent passes it is world-changing for the child left behind.

I believe that Yoshikazu Okada put sincere thought and effort into his writing, Every scene has a special jewel for the viewer, and each jewel holds importance and has to mean and isn’t included just for the sake of it. This makes the screenplay come full circle and gives the viewer a level of appreciation that might have been overlooked had some of the details were left out.

While I applaud the writing of this screenplay, I have to equally applaud the writer of the original novel, Takuji Ichikawa. He has penned several novels that have been turned into films, and consistently delivered tales that had a great sense of soul to them. Watch out for productions based on some of his stories, they’re really good. I mean when you first think of the underlying theme, a woman returning from the grave to revisit her family, it sounds like it will fit well into the horror or suspense genre’s, but, it’s nowhere near scary and is rather, an audience pleaser.

One take on the screenplay and of course the visual narrative that could be viewed in a negative light is the emphasis that is placed on Mio Aio’s importance to the family as the cook, cleaner, caretaker etc. Feminists, I’m not one of them, might not take too kindly to this. If they (the feminists) fall into that trap then they will surely miss the film’s charm and sentimentality.

Nobuhiro Doi directed the visual telling of the screenplay with acute precision, creating an elegantly shot, well-depicted portrait of a rather sad but equally uplighting romance. Adding an extended sequence at the end of the film, rather than ongoing throughout, where the reading of Mio Aio’s diary, reveals to Takumi the extent and depth of her love, both prior to her death and an explanation following her death as to why certain things unfold the way they do. Brilliant!

The cinematography was breathtaking but understated. Takahide Shibanushi framed beautiful close-ups and astounding outdoor scenery as a backdrop to the unfolding narrative. In fact, the scenes filmed in the forest close to the home almost created a magical boundary between the mysterious appearance of a dead woman and the reality of the world. The forest, the rainy season, they all come across visually as being intimately bound with the miracle that unravels. This is the kind of mastery Nobuhiro Doi reveals in almost every single of his films. He is almost manipulative in his execution, but it works every time!

Details were paid to wardrobe, which wasn’t very hard, and bits and pieces of the home of the family, the office Takumi works at, and the sort of ramshackle space in the forest. The accompanying musical score by Suguru Matsutani provides tracks and instrumental pieces that help evoke the right emotions during scenes and just add to the overall depth of the production.

Bolstering the visual and narrative accomplishments, are the excellent performances by the cast chosen for their various roles.

Takumi Aio was played by Shido Nakamura (Mikihiro Ogawa) and his performance was so captivating, I was entirely lost in his character’s pain and confusion. You might recognize him from Letters From Iowa Jima or his voice from the Death Note series of films. I felt he emoted well, interpreted his character’s illness, emotions, pain, traits exceptionally well. It was a solid performance!

Yuko Takeuchi was cast as Mio Aio and she was fantastic for the role. She gave Mio Aio an air of grace and beauty (not just physical) that made this character convincingly real, even as a reincarnated individual. I loved her interpretation of herself as the glue that keeps the family tightly secured together. I relished her facial expressions and amusement at the retelling of her love story. It was very well done the performance.

Together, the characters played by Shido Nakamura and Yuko Takeuchi shared a commanding on-screen chemistry. They looked good together physically, but they complemented each in other ways, like mannerisms, sentimentality, maturity. I really enjoyed the intimate scenes between them both, whether it’s the retelling of their love story, the brief moments in bed, or those few minutes first thing in the morning.

The young star of this show is hands-down Akashi Takei, who played the six-year-old son Yuji Aio. It was a delightful and heart-wrenching performance. I was very impressed with the delivery of the character Yuji. Akashi Takei did very well in depicting a boy who has lost his mother and years for her return.

oh! … that’s a wrap

I find the Japanese are exceptionally adept at telling simple stories that engage their audience and hold their attention captive. Be With You is just another example of another successful production.

I loved the idea behind the story, I loved the writing of the screenplay. I enjoyed all the beauty captured in the lens of the camera, and I was caught up in the wonderful performances.

This film is a keeper and one I will watch, certainly, again and again.

oh! … tidbits

Be With You was first released at the 17th Tokyo International Film Festival

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailers

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