Monday, November 24, 2008

Sad Vacation (Shinji Aoyama, 2007)

Tadanobu Asano and Jo Odagiri in Shinji Aoyama's Sad Vacation (2007).

I'm not sure what Aoyama is trying to say with Sad Vacation, I'm not even sure Aoyama knows exactly what he is trying to say. The only thing I'm sure about is that it's a film about family, being abandoned by your family and trying to forgive them or take revenge. It might also be about how different experiences and environments forces you to be the person you are, even if you try to become something else.

All of this is best described in the character of Kenji Shiraishi, the young delinquent in Aoyama's early film Helpless (1996) who took part in some murders along with his yakuza friend, Yasuo, after his father commits suicide. Something that Kenji blames his mother for, since she abandoned both him and his father. Following the murders, Kenji and Yuri, Yasuo's traumatzed sister, have been on the run for the last ten years or so. While working in human trafficking, Kenji, knowing what it's like to be all alone, decides to take care of a Chinese boy who's father died during the boat ride over. Later, while working as a designated driver for drunk business men and bar hostesses, Kenji drives a man home only to find that he is married to his eloped mother, Chiyoko. Kenji goes to see her and finds that she is nothing but happy to have him back in her life, but his own feelings may not be the same.

Kenji moves in with Chiyoko and her new family, consisting of her new husband, Mamiya, their teenage son, Yusuke, and the employees of their transporting company who are all drifters with nowhere else to go. One of the drifters is Kozue, the girl who survived the bus hijacking in Eureka (2000). She was looking for her runaway mother when she was taken in and offered a job by Mamiya.

After Kenji has moved in, he plans to get revenge on Chiyoko to cause her the same feelings of abandonment that he had to live with since she left him and his father, but when he thinks that he is finally done with her and has rid himself of the influence she has had on his life, she comes back, with a stronger hold on him than ever. It doesn't matter that Kenji is basically a good person, the experiences he's had has left a mark on him and his hate forces him into bad cycles. The only thing his mother can do is try to understand and forgive. Chiyoko, now wanting to be the mother she never was, can't get through to her other son and, not by leaving him, but by maybe not trying hard enough, abandons him too. Her previous life has left her too in a bad cycle.

The film does seem kind of confused, taking stands both for and against parents being needed, "real" families vs. surrogate families and whether it's right or not to forgive just about anything.
Maybe it's not the point of the film to come to some kind of conclusion, but just to make room for thoughts on the subjects that it brings up. After all the ending is just a big splash.


leigh~ said...