Using a structure of three interlinked stories of women of different ages whose paths take them to a dilapidated love hotel, using them to explore various female issues, there's bound to be the feeling that the set-up of Asyl is somewhat contrived. Director Izuru Kumasaka manages however to make the outcomes somewhat less predictable by not having the women revealing and explaining too much, but rather opens the underlying emotions and issues through the memories that each of the experiences bring to the owner of the love hotel, Tsuyako. The three main issues that arise, which all have a particular female perspective, could be summed up as relating to fathers, fidelity and fertility, with perhaps family being the linking factor in all of them.
The issue of fathers comes up through a young runaway with dyed grey hair, who temporarily uses the love-hotel while she tries to work out her feelings about her father's new family, presumably after the break-up of their own (nothing is made too explicit here, there are no tearful scenes either of break-up or reconciliation). The question of marriage and fidelity within it comes up in the story of a woman who passes the love-hotel every day as she sets out on her regular power-walk, but one day loses an important notebook that records her obsession. The third story relates to a seemingly promiscuous young woman who visits the love-hotel with ever changing partners and a mysterious briefcase.
Even though there is a perhaps too neat wrapping up of each of the stories, what has gone on within the characters in these strange and unusual little stories is left incomplete, with much left unsaid and key moments playing-out off-screen. What fills in the gaps, in a less obvious way, is the background of the owner of the hotel, Tsuyako, and the way she reacts to each of the three women is connected to her own experience with her ex-husband. Loneliness certainly plays a large part in each of these stories too.
Asyl can be a frustrating experience, the film slow to reveal its intentions and then perhaps wrapping up the various threads a little too neatly, but the manner in which it keeps a firm structure and then subverts it to a large degree – initially throwing the viewer off over who is the principal interest in the film, leaving much unexpressed openly, with plenty of quirks in characterisation – works to its advantage, and ultimately does have something to say about the things that are important to women of all ages in regards to relationships and family.
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