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I'm an American living in Tokyo, and I'd been waiting for this movie to come out. It's gotten a lot of buzz since last year, so I was very interested in seeing it. Fortunately it more than lives up to the hype. It's a very beautiful and moving film, and I can't recommend it enough.
The story concerns an African-American man who hates Japan, and who has a rift with his son when the son decides to come teach English here. The son dies in an accident, and the father must come to Japan to retrieve his son's artwork. The film follows the father as he learns to come to terms with his son's death, and as he discovers things about his son's life in Japan.
What's remarkable is how much this movie plays in many ways like a Japanese film, even though director and writer Aaron Woolfolk is an American. I read in an interview that he once lived here and returns to visit often. I guess Japan has really rubbed off on him.
I wonder how this film will play in America. It might be regarded as a little slow. And I certainly don't mean "slow" in a bad or boring way. Actually, THE HARIMAYA BRIDGE moves much more rapidly and with more energy than your typical Japanese drama. But I can see some of my countrymen with their MTV-influenced attention spans not being able to put up with the reduced pace of the film. Which would be a real shame, since much of the film's beauty and artistry comes from its pace.
Nonetheless, I think the movie is a great achievement. Especially since this is Woolfolk's first full-length film. The outstanding writing and the inspired direction go hand-in-hand. This is one of those movies where you feel like you're getting true insight into the filmmaker's mind, heart, and soul. Moreover, the acting, the camera work, and the music are all top-notch. The story is something new and fresh. And the message of the film is really wonderful. All of these things add up to me giving THE HARIMAYA BRIDGE my highest recommendation.
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