At a glance, there's nothing new about this story. Hajimi is a senior executive with a manufacturer making railway stuff. He's at odds with his wife, who has her own little struggling business. His daughter is rude to him. He's married to the job, and his daughter keeps reminding him of that. His company exports to America which is suffering an economic downturn. Sound familiar? Well, he is offered a promotion and a seat on the board. All he has to do is close down the plant he loves before the company goes bankrupt. Enamored of trains, he has little choice but to take the new job - or resign. What to do? Then his best friend, another worker also a train buff, dies.
This could have been another melodrama, or a potboiler. But a brilliant writer-director has painted a glorious picture of a divided family, eventually brought together by a sick Granny. We see vintage trains, lovingly depicted by a cinematographer of real talent. There are no tricks, no CGI. The action is rhythmic, with sequences of quiet, close-up contemplation, and railway operations so correct, so accurately drawn, you can almost smell the diesels.
Here in Australia we thought we had a monopoly on wide-screen landscapes. Here the camera dwells on gorgeous panoramas. And then we see a team of marvellous actors, telling us what is happening silently in close-up what is happening, just with their facial expressions.
There is no "wow" ending; it is almost predictable. Highly recommended for railway buffs. For lovers of drama, this movie is a great example of putting human emotions onto film. Every character changes. For those averse to subtitles, this film does them well. I detected one tiny and insignificant error. If you've enjoyed Japanese films in the past, well, this one is different.
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