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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One unusual thing you will see in Japanese cinema is a director
'rebooting' their own movie several times in a row, before finally
moving on to something else. It will have the same underlying theme,
but completely different stories and characters. It may even be an
entirely different genre.
Crossroads 'Railways 2' (2012) is a complete reboot by Masatoshi Kurakata of his earlier 'Railways' (2010):
Toru Takishima (Tomokazu Miura) nears retirement as an absurdly handsome train driver with a full-head of Hollywood Hair. He's a gruff perfectionist; a man of few words, even for his wife. His co-workers worship him and perhaps Japanese audiences will admire his old-fashioned stoicism, but I found him an unlikeable man I could not empathize with.
His wife Sawako (Kimiko Yo) has had enough and when Toru refuses to let her resume her career as a nurse, she leaves him and goes her own way. Later when she reaches out to him he remains gruff and unapologetic, turning has back on her until she once again walks out the door.
Kimiko Yo is absolutely gorgeous, and it's painful to watch her struggling and failing as she tries to make it on her own. Cold and lonely in a little apartment, she desperately calls her only friend to try and stave off the boredom. It never occurs to her to hit a bar by herself. Eventually she returns to Toru, who has changed a little, though not a lot.
If you're an elderly Japanese couple (obviously the film's target audience) this is probably a happy ending, but to me it was very unsatisfying. The movie did strike an emotional chord with me, but not in the way the director intended.
The pace of the movie is slow, but if you accept that not a lot will happen, you can sit back and relax. The old trains chugging through rustic farmland and small town scenery of rural Japan is beautiful. The rest of the cast wear their hearts on their sleeve and come across as too one-dimensional to care about, and none of them ever point out to Toru what an incredible bore he is. For reasons hard to understand, Tomokazu Miura's emotionless performance won him a Japanese Academy Award nomination.
I can't say I enjoyed Crossroads, but at the same time I'm glad I watched it. Perhaps in spite of Miura's absurd Hollywood-hair I yearned for a Hollywood ending where Sawako would make it on her own. Instead the fact they end up back together, not because of love but because of desperation, is more true to life than any Hollywood ending could be.
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