funuke

Funuke: Show Some Love You Losers! (Funuke domo, kanashimi no ai wo misero)

Japan (2007) Dir. Daihachi Yoshida

Sumika, (Eriko Sato) a struggling actress, returns to her hometown in the country after learning her parents were killed in a road accident. At first it seems she is there to mourn her parents but the truth is she is only after the inheritance money to pay of some debts she accrued in Tokyo. However, there is no money forthcoming and her family is in debt just as much as Sumika is.

Being unable to afford even the fare back to Tokyo, Sumika is forced to stay with her aspiring Manga artist younger sister Kiyomi (Aimi Satsukawa), wood cutter half-brother Shinji (Masatoshi Nagase) and his perky wife Machiko (Hiromi Nagasaku). It isn’t long before old family issues resurface and secrets are revealed, causing trouble ensues for all concerned.

Based on a novel by Yukiko Motoya, this is your textbook Japanese family drama with a dark comedic streak that runs throughout. It’s deceptive in that it is presented like a bleak and gritty looking drama but the subtle black humour ensures one keeps watching just in case something gets missed. The characters are all interesting enough to also captivate the viewer, each one blessed with their own identity.

Naturally the family is a little on the dysfunctional side but not too quirky, aside from Machiko who constantly remains upbeat despite being abused by Shinji and Sumika. Kiyomi hides herself away from everyone finding her only outlet of expression through Manga; unfortunately it is her artistic bent that is the cause of a lot of the family tensions. After witnessing a violent incident between Sumika and her father which resulted in Shinji being stabbed in the face by Sumika, Kiyomi draws the scene as a Manga which gets published and is soon seen all around town.

Sumika blames the Manga for her inability to become a successful actress in Tokyo, rather than her own lack of skills. Upon her return Sumika ritually harasses and often physically abuses her younger sister with no compunction, such is her ego, despite numerous apologies. Shinji tries to step in but backs off every time – which is explained in a flashback revealing a rather curious and illicit twist in their relationship.

As the lead character Sumika is deeply unpleasant; she is vain, selfish, greedy, uncaring and superficial. Her delusions of grandeur are matched only by her manipulative and bullying ways. Shinji may not have the same personality defects but he too is difficult to get behind due to his mistreatment of his wife and his total obedience towards to Sumika – which is explained later on in the film.

This then brings us to the film’s conceit in making the two supporting characters of Kiyomi and Machiko as the real victims who deserve the sympathy of the audience. Kiyomi is able to hide away in her room and submerge herself in her artwork; Machiko has no such refuge (aside from making dolls from balls of string) as the only one who keeps the house running. Despite being mistreated by her husband, Machiko takes it all in good grace as she grew up an orphan and thus is happy to be a part of a family at last. Sadly for her, Shinji only married to get his parents off his back and due to a promise he made to Sumika, has yet to consummate his marriage.

The four leads deliver top turns in their respective roles, with former Gravure Idol Eriko Sato proving she is more than just a pretty face as the bitchy Sumika. Masatoshi Nagase brings the requisite air of solemnity to his portrayal of the torn Shinji while Aimi Satsukawa essays burdened schoolgirl Kiyomi with remarkable depth for someone so young. Arguably, it is former teen pop idol Hiromi Nagasaku who steals the show as Machiko, providing the film with its heart as well as the bulk of its humour. It is impossible not to root for her or indeed be charmed by her, as illustrated by the numerous awards Nagasaku won for this understated yet perceptive role.

With a near two hour running time, Funuke: Show Some Love You Losers! might not be as immediate a viewing prospect for those who like their films glossier and fast paced, and could do with a little trimming, but once it gets going, it turns into quite the enjoyable and endearing slice of life comedy drama.

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