Sunday, June 7, 2009

168) All Around Us (2008)

168) All Around Us (2008) Dir: Ryosuke Hashiguchi Not Yet Released Date Seen: June 6th, 2009 Rating: 3.75/5

 All Around Us, writer/director Ryosuke Hashiguchi's return to making movies after a seven year hiatus, is for the most part an expertly observed drama about a young married couple. Based on a novel of his, Hashiguchi deftly alternates between episodes in the lives of Shoko (Tae Kamura), a literary PR agent whose pregnancy is forcing her to take a series of serious emotional blows and Kanao (Lily Franky), a happy-go-lucky sketch artist who takes a high-paying job drawing courtroom portraits for newspapers to support his family. From that kind of set-up, All Around Us could have been a much more emotionally rich version of Judd Apatow's Knocked Up--indeed, the hilariously deadpan scene where they're determining to have sex could very well be a deleted scene from that film--but as it progresses, it becomes more like a cross between The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Edward Yang's Yi Yi

Sadly, that delicacy isn't sustained throughout the film's 140 minute runtime. By the last half hour, the characters look to have achieved a miraculous emotional breakthrough, granting them a lasting sense of closure. This means that their lives are now spent living every moment to their fullest, a cliched false sentiment that spoils all the moments of fragile tenderness that Hashiguchi's gradual, moment-by-moment approach to dramatizing their lives up 'til that point earned. 

All Around Us instead ends with a series of resolution, which is especially grating considering that Kanao and Shoko understand that being happy is mostly a matter of faith. "Living's a skill," an understanding nun tells Kanao and as obnoxious as that sounds, beneath its deceptively simple message is a lot of truth. Giving Kanao and Shoko this kind of happy ending feels like a cheat. An otherwise terrific film marginally but memorably brought down by a soppy finish.

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