Breathe In, Breathe Out (2004) Poster

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9/10
Exemplary!
cremea23 June 2012
Breath in, Breath Out is a 2004 Japanese film which I saw about 6 or 7 years ago or so, and just revisited recently. It's as superb now as it was then. Some films don't tend to age well over time, but this is really the epitome of a timeless uncomplicated film that can last forever.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

The plot revolves around 6 young strangers gathered together to work a sugar cane harvest over the course of a month or so to make some extra money. It's sort of like a working vacation as well, as they get to spend their time at an island getaway that's the polar opposite of the normal hustle and bustle of their regular lives. The work they have to do is grueling and back breaking however, and most all of the workers are ill prepared for the task at hand, but they soon get down to it though, and this movie is off and running.

That's about all there is to the story. The rest of the movie is about getting to know the 6 workers, their foreman, and the sweet granny and grandpa who own the land that needs to be farmed. This is a VERY simple and slowly paced film that is basically nothing more than a subtle character study and bonding experience, with some self discovery between the characters thrown in for good measure. As boring as that might seem, this movie is often engrossing, frequently mesmerizing, and oddly soothing.

One of the best things about this film is simply what it is not: there are no giant plot twists, no heroes, no villains, no hidden agendas, and little to no nonsense. There's some plot points implemented throughout that are designed to further flesh out and test each of the main characters involved. It's obvious that all of the main characters have their own reasons for being there, and many have their own past life issues they are trying to overcome (some heavier than others), but not so much more so than most any group of real life people you just randomly gathered off the street.

As a side note; I typically don't like to make mention of film making specifics in my reviews much beyond acting, writing, directing, and whether I liked the movie or not. But, I would be remiss to not mention the cinematography in this particular film, as it is superb; the island shots are stunning and gorgeous, and the sugar crop field is often hypnotic to just stare at as it waves in the wind, and evolves over time while the workers relentlessly whittle it down.

The film is a shade just over 2 hours long, but it certainly doesn't feel like it. It breezes right along, and just grows on you in a way that is really hard to describe. It also becomes a strangely emotional viewing experience as the ending draws closer and closer. In the end, I really wanted to see the workers accomplish their goal, but I also wished they could keep on harvesting this sugar crop indefinitely.

I liken this movie to spending an enjoyable evening (in reality) with good friends who are soon moving far away. Sometimes, you wish an evening with your friends would last just a little bit longer, and sometimes you wish a sugar cane field was just a little bit bigger. This film might not be for everyone, and it's likely not suitable for the adrenaline/action/ADHD crowd. But, I found it to be somewhat fascinating and thoroughly likable, and, I was a little bit sad when it all had to inevitably end. And that is the highest compliment I can give to any film.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and totally worth watching if you're willing to give it a chance...9 out of 10 stars.
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10/10
Masterpiece among masterpieces
ethSin13 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"Shinkokyuu no Hitsuyou", literally "The need for a deep breath", is about 6 young individuals' 35-day contract to harvest the entire sugar cane field in Okinawa, southern islands of Japan.

Such contract farm work is often taken by those 'escaping' from some form of failure. Each workers have their unique personality as well as their own issues and reasons to escape, slowly unveiled throughout the film. With the strict deadline (factory that accepts sugar cane closes on March 31), they must set aside their differences and work together to accomplish a common goal.

The cast for this film is unbelievably wonderful in 2009 terms. Every one of the 6 main characters except Kaneko Sayaka has made it big enough to lead in their own films. Nagasawa Masami probably won't even accept such a dull role today. All the actors in this movie performed extremely well in roles that really fit them.

Every masterpiece of a film is accompanied by touching and memorable soundtrack, and the music in this movie is probably the best I've ever heard. For some reason, it almost made me cry even though there was nothing sad going on in the screen. I was simply overwhelmed by how inspirational it was.

Direction was fantastic. All the characters developed extremely well, from a bunch of unenthusiastic youngsters to hard workers who are proud of their work, and possibly changed their perspective of life. The movie is relatively slow-paced, but there was not a moment of boredom for me, and there were many truly unforgettable scenes from beautiful scenery of Okinawa and amazing camera movements.

Although this film had a relatively slow start, the story really drew me in, and I really connected with the main characters. This is the best Japanese movie I've seen to date out of almost 300, and I can't imagine a better "countryside" movie than this. The movie had a great message, that it's okay to be last, as long as you reach the goal and have fun while doing it.
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8/10
Hiding in Paradise
Meganeguard29 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Director: Shinohara Tetsuo Duration: 123 minutes

Almost three years ago I was lucky enough to receive a scholarship to study Chinese at the University of Hawaii. Being that I was going to be in Honolulu for three months, I wanted to explore as much as possible while avoiding the large number of tourist traps. I and a couple of my classmates would go to beaches used by locals and small hole in the wall restaurants that served some of the best food that I had ever tasted. While there, I noticed a number of people with long hair and beards whose skin was as dark and tough as old leather. I talked to a few of them and learned that they hailed from back in the mainland, but had lived in Hawaii for years unable to truly fit in with everyday, mundane society. Last year I went to Okinawa for my girlfriend's sister's wedding and I noticed a few people who fit the same description as those I saw in Hawaii: people who had come to an island paradise away from the hustle and bustle of daily life to do there own thing even if it meant being poor. Coming across Shinohara Tetsuo's Breathe In, Breathe Out brought a number of these memories back to me, thoughts of the loneliness that can be found in paradise.

Breathe In, Breathe Out centers on six, later seven, individuals who have gotten jobs harvesting sugarcane on a small Okinawan island. Each individual comes from distinct backgrounds, but because there is a rule that no one will pry into the pasts of the workers, little is known about each individual, but from their personalities, it seems, that they are all either searching for something more or have given up that search and are content just to exist and fill time. The work is hard and there are few thrills, but the small group of individuals learn how to work together and to enjoy a simpler life away from the big city, but as traces of their past lives begin to rise from the depths of their memories, can they stay happy and will they truly be able to harvest such a large amount of sugarcane in only 35 days?

One of the reasons why I enjoy Japanese cinema as much as I do is because of films like Breathe In, Breathe Out. There is little action, no sex scenes, nor violence, but instead a film that is dedicated to character study and the complex relationships between memory and the formation of self. Highly enjoyable.
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