Following a tip, Manabu Yazaki loses his last money betting on the older "banba" horse "Unryu" (jockied by Makie, a legendary jockey's daughter) in a draft-horse race held in his childhood ...
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Following a tip, Manabu Yazaki loses his last money betting on the older "banba" horse "Unryu" (jockied by Makie, a legendary jockey's daughter) in a draft-horse race held in his childhood home of Obihiro on the island of Hokkaido. That evening he seeks out his older brother Takeo, a trainer who owns a stable. Takeo is cool to his brother's return since Manabu cut off contact with Takeo and his mother 13 years earlier, after completing a degree at a Tokyo university, founding a successful company, and getting married. After finding out that Manabu's company is going bankrupt, his marriage has ended and he is hiding from his partner and creditors, Takeo offers to let his brother stay if he earns his keep as a stable hand. However, he resists letting him see their mother, who is in a nursing home. Manabu makes real friends among the stable boys, and begins to bring Unryu back into peak racing form. He also takes an interest in restoring Makie's confidence, for after winning early races ... Written by
The tough, cold life in Hokkaido is matched by the lives of horses and racing crews; the course is hilly, and it's said more than once that the old horses no longer able to race meet a grim fate - as food. This low-key drama covers an unusual topic seriously, with characters who seem suited for the challenging life. There were a few times when I felt a little more could have been done with such an unusual topic, but there's no question that there's a feeling of verisimilitude in the sounds and struggles of these horses. Long after seeing the film, you may be haunted by the gray Hokkaido winter and the hyper-real sounds of the racing life.
The plot is very simple. A salaryman visits the ranch of his brother; but it becomes increasingly clear that he's come to hide. He turns out to be a natural, but there's a nagging sense that he's being tugged by two forces. The tough responsibilities of the ranch are a wake-up call that there are many whose lives embody greater challenge and risk - on a daily basis.
That said, one wonder if the subject matter wouldn't have been better served by a documentary. Certainly, there's an abundance of fascinating material, and there are times when one might prefer to see this sub-world unfettered by plot devices or characters - the kind of thing those quiet BBC documentaries do so well.
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